Super Alloy Batman - Jim Lee style
Play Imaginative

   "The following is a guest review.  The review and photos do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Michael Crawford or Michael's Review of the Week, and are the opinion and work of the guest author."

Jeff's review tonight is one I'm very interested in - as a Batman fan, I was intrigued by this figure, but haven't pulled the trigger. Maybe Jeff will change my mind - take it away, Mr. Parker!

A big thank you to Mike, who it has to be said is the undisputed master of all things Batman around these here parts, but more than a little of his enthusiasm has rubbed off on me. I’ll leave him to cover the cool black and white statues (I rarely enter into the whole statue game), but when it comes to articulated 1/6th figures I will always be in their like a shot.

So going back to a couple of months ago, I started seeing pics of this figure showing up here and there, but the first uber limited signature edition version (which had an edition size of just 100) came in a glossy finish that quite frankly didn’t float my boat. But then it was revealed that it would be followed by a regular version in a matte finish… my interest was reignited and I was in!

This is not a toy aimed at your enthusiast who only collects movie versions of characters, it is much more for your general Batman comic book fan or discerning collector of the more eclectic high-end designer fare. And as ‘designers’ go you will find it tough to find one more fitting for this character than Jim Lee. He was the artist who brought the Guardian of Gotham to life in comics such as All Star Batman and Robin, Batman: Gotham Knights and the seminal Hush, so his credentials all check out pretty well. Play Imaginative gave him the task of designing a 12” figure based on his suit designs. However, rather than being clad in tight spandex he was to be bulked up in the armour department, for this ladies and gentlemen is a figure that is primarily made of die-cast alloy metal. To check out just how much metal, take a gander at this pic here which shows the metal parts in a base unpainted finish.

So, imagine if you will an alternate universe where Bruce Wayne decided he needed to kick Tony Stark’s ass… not too big an ask I know. But were the mash-up comic-book celebrity take-down ever to occur, this would be the suit he’d wear for the task. And we all know who would come out on top, Stark would take aim with a repulsor set for maximum carnage, but Wayne would blast him with a powerful burst from his EMP repulsors and peel him out of his suit with a Bat-can opener before giving him a spanking! Which is a nice segue into Play Imaginative’s next planned figure at this scale, because the millionaire playboy that they have lined up is in fact the Iron Man!

So, in a world where it is increasingly difficult to decide where your hard earned cash will be spent, as we are all trying to operate on tighter and tighter budgets, can you justify and do you really need a figure that costs $270 plus shipping… well do ya?

Packaging - ****
When you shell out a hefty lump sum for a figure, you expect every aspect of that release to be as rewarding as possible. And so Play Imaginative have turned in a spectacular and classy bit of packaging design here. The figure comes in an oversized tall oblong box with a black outer sleeve baring an image of one of Jim Lee’s sketches. I found mine to have a sleeve with a very… no very tight fit and I had to gently but firmly push and tug the inner box out (in fact it became a two person job as my wife gripped the bottom edge of the box as I manoeuvred the sleeve off). Once removed you are met by a silk finished black box with a double front door meeting vertically down the front lengthways. This is held shut by a real metal Bat-logo that doubles as a Batarang. It is super-shiny with a polished chrome finish and helps make this look like a very elegant affair. The doors open to the sides on a double hinged flap that leaves the side panels laying open as well as the front doors. The right hand side panel has a bio of Jim Lee giving a potted history of his creative life, some interesting facts are here, not least the fact that he has eight kids… Respect… I struggle with two!

Inside the figure is held in a vac formed plastic tray above a second layer that holds the gargoyle base and his cape. All in all this is a very nicely designed ‘event’ box with some cute design flourishes, and I have no problem awarding a full score, especially considering this is the companies first foray into the 1/6th market.

Sculpting - Suit/armour ****, Face ***1/2
This is unabashedly and unashamedly a toy, all be it a very expensive one! Take yourself back to the early/mid nineties (if you are old enough, or in my case see if your memory is good enough to remember that far back), because this has the look and feel of one of those small scale cool Batman figures you found in Toys R Us scaled up to a 1/6th scale, but with some great engineering thrown in to enhance the articulation of the whole thing. I like the way the face has been designed in so much as it looks like a classic smaller scale action figure. This obviously means the face is more generic rather than being based on any particular actor that has portrayed the Dark Knight, but as this is intended to be one of Jim Lee’s comic characters that kind of makes sense. However, even though I ‘like’ it, it fails to be particularly inspiring. It has a strong determined expression, but its generic features leave it looking more than a little lifeless and dare I say bland.

The body and armour are a totally different matter. Being a metal and plastic figure, the whole of the outfit is sculpted, from the tip of his toes to the top of his pointy ears.  The styling is kept relatively simple, with lines dissecting different parts of the armour to indicate where implied joins are and this helps disguise where some of the real points of articulation are hidden. But to be fair this is a figure that wears its articulation and engineering on its sleeve… quite literally. The footwear is made to look like motorcycle boots and the bulk of his legs and arms are made to look heavily armoured, with various panels interlocking. The gauntlets exhibit the classic Batman design with the large tri-bladed points hanging from the underside. Hopefully my selection of photos will display amply the way this figure has been put together, but if you want to see a few more, check out the selection I posted on Face Book here.

Paint - ***1/2
There is very little that could or should go wrong here, especially on a figure that costs you this much. So the app is kept simple with large flat areas of the gunmetal grey that make up the lions share of his outfit. The gloves, boots, cowl and Bat logo on his chest are all black whilst his utility belt is a gold/bronze colour. The face section is made of a flesh coloured plastic (with the lips painted in a subtle darker tone) and the eyes are made of plain white plastic, both these parts are inserted from within the head, so any lines where they but up are crisp and well defined.

As I have already said many times, this is a cool toy that makes no apology for wanting to look like one. So think of this paint app as you would a piece of designer vinyl, with its raison d'Ítre being to look ‘perfect’ and you will be happy. However if you want realistic skin tones and subtle airbrushed detailing to help define the form, this is not for you.

One of the things I was impressed by was that like the Hot Toys Iron Man figures they have made the trunks out of a soft pliable vinyl. This gives the articulation at the hips a better range of mobility, and the colour matching between them and the metal parts is perfect. Lets just hope they don’t fade like some of the earlier Iron Man figures have been known to do.

Articulation - ***1/4
Being a figure that is primarily made of a metal alloy it was always going to be heavy! And being so heavy means you need to engineer joints that can guarantee holding poses without slowly drooping or giving way. This is an area where the figure works well. Of course you can’t expect the flexibility of a plastic base figure like a True-Type or Prometheus, but we do get a good range, one that is better than I feared it would be. All the major load-bearing joints are ratcheted to add strength and stability, and they manage that job well, but with ratcheted joints comes a loss of the smaller more subtle poses.

On the whole the body functions well, with notable bright spots being the mid foot hinge and the fact that the fingers are articulated in a similar way to the newer Hot Toys Iron Man figures. I’m impressed by this for a first release, and think that more companies should endeavour to give figures in gloves or armour the same degree of detail (I’m looking at you Sideshow for future incarnations of Vader and armoured troopers, it should at least be an option alongside the regular hand selection… do it, do it now!). As I said above, this figure does come primarily made of alloy metal. The strange quality of alloy is that it is often not magnetic (ever tried to put a magnet on the base of your office chair… trust me, monkey metal don’t play). So you could be forgiven for thinking that some parts of the figure aren’t metal but plastic, and while I can forgive you for knowing the head, hands, feet, elbows and knees are plastic I can assure the rest is indeed alloy (as you will hopefully already have seen in the link above).

So, in a nutshell the basic engineering is a mid foot hinge, the ability to swivel at the ankle and a well-designed ratcheted double knee that can do about 90 degrees (in fact just a smidgeon over). The top of the thighs where they join the pelvis are hidden beneath the vinyl trunks and can bend up to about 45 degrees whilst also having the ability to turn and twist on a universal ball joint. There is a little movement at the waist, but the mid torso, above where his abs meet the ribcage is a far better joint with plenty of mobility to twist and tilt. The shoulders have a universal joint concealed beneath the armoured epaulettes, but the way they are attached does very little to hamper his mobility (again, much like Hot Toys Iron Man. Like the knees, the elbows are a double ratcheted joint, but unlike the knees they are engineered to extend out on posts from the upper and lower arms as they bend giving a better degree of mobility. When you close the joint you need to gently push these posts back into their respective limbs. The ratchets here do mean that between ‘clicks’ there is a little free movement, but this didn’t impact much on his poses.

The wrists have a push on peg joint that makes the hand able to turn and tilt a little and as I said above the hands are designed to have moving joints at all the places you find on a real hand. Lastly the neck has joints both where it joins the shoulders and where it joins the head, so it has a good range of movement to turn from side to side and a limited ability to look up and down.

So all in all I am very impressed and it performed far better in this category than I thought it might from the promo shots released by the company. But do bear in mind that this is a big heavy metal figure and approach with realistic expectations.

Accessories - ***1/4
The coolest accessory here is the gargoyle base, it’s pretty big and has some lovely detailing both on its actual design but also on the texturing in receives to look as stone-like as possible. And to help the figure stand atop it, it has some reasonably strong magnets concealed within the body.

His other accessories aren’t quite so exciting! There is a grappling gun with some solid detailing, but no moving parts and a pair of what are billed as Batarangs, but to me look more akin to some kind of Oriental hand held scythe like weapons. The scale is too big for Batarangs and the inclusion of a large handle makes them look even less like his trademark throwing stars.

His other ‘essential’ accessory, (which I decided not to include in the outfit category) is his cape. This is made from a reasonably nice fabric and hangs pretty well when attached… sorry, did I say when attached? I should have said IF you can attach it. It comes with small magnets concealed at the tops where it makes contact over his shoulders. However the magnets are so ridiculously weak that I had difficulty getting them to stick when reposing him. Your best plan of action is to find the pose you want then attach the cape. It will stay in place just fine if you do it this way, but as soon as you try to move him or repose his position I can guarantee it will come away again. The cape does have some wires concealed along its outer edges, and these do work well for creating some dynamic shapes and swirls to mimic that classic windblown Batman pose, but make sure you position them gently and then push the magnetic tabs firmly to the body.

The problem is that the metal alloy he is made of isn’t actually magnetic, and magnets seem to have been inserted beneath the shoulders/collarbone area and they are simply not strong enough. Had this been a $100 to $150 figure this would leave me a little miffed, but at $270 it’s virtually unforgivable. I did ask Play Imaginative if they were aware of the situation, and it seems that because of the materials used this was the best they could do, and aim to make future releases better. Good news if you plan on getting any further figures from them, but not much of a comfort for those that bought this one. I admit this figure does look great without the cape, but what is Batman not wearing a cape… exactly… it’s just not an option!

This means that for me he will be left holding nothing for my display, but he will be standing astride that gargoyle… with his cape hanging in place, as long as I don’t try to move him!

Outfit - N/A

Its all sculpted apart from the cape… and I couldn’t find it within me to consider that an outfit!

Value - **
What we have here is a licensed figure, based on a design by the renowned Batman illustrator Jim Lee, so that in and of it self is going to demand a premium price. Then add into the equation that this is a metal figure and the price takes another leap… but how high should that leap be?

Well, we have to consider that the body is of an all new design and because of the specific requirements of this figure I doubt it will get much re-use unless they decide to release a few more colour variants… which I could playfully imagine they might (see what I did there). A matte black version and a classic comic-book mid grey and blue combo might prove popular. However, even taking these points into consideration I find the price of $270 pretty astronomical!

As a reviewer, and someone in the ‘trade’ I managed to get a press sample reduction in the full RRP meaning I in effect got it for half price. But after adding shipping (remember this package weighs in at nearly 3 kg so that ain’t cheap), and then being hit with a ridiculously high import duty courtesy of Her Majesties customs and excise, I ended up looking at the product and thinking… it just plain cost too much!

If you could find a way of ordering this figure and it being delivered for under $200 it would seem like a pretty sweet deal, but realistically you are gonna be lucky to get change out of $300, which might leave a slightly bitter taste in your mouth.

Fun Factor - ***1/2
OK, I’ve got the bad bit out of the way, because the price really is the only fly in the ointment… well, that and the cape. In all other respects this is a great toy. Yeah, I said the face could be a little less generic, but after posing and playing for a while, his chiselled macho features grew more and more on me. Even the cape became less of an issue as I just went with its limitations and accepted it was to be placed on the figure after posing. Because lets face it, when you find a good kick-ass stance atop that gargoyle, and then futz with the cape into a wind-flapping dynamic pose it does actually look pretty killer.

And apart from the price and issues with the cape this would actually make a very cool play-thing for a kid, it feels robust enough to put up with quite a bit of torture from tiny hands… but I wouldn’t recommend it!

Overall- ***1/2
Way back when I first got into hi-end figures it was the ‘surprise’ new releases by companies I wasn’t that familiar with that used to get me strangely excited. Things like the Medicom: Andy Warhol’s, DaJoint: ZMDC and Aoshima: Endoskeleton really floated my boat. So when I first saw images of this I got that same buzz. And the pay off is that even though underwhelmed by the way the cape fixes to the body, and being rather alarmed by the price, I still end up being more than a little impressed by this figure.

When posed well it can look pretty amazing, and the comic book styling juxtaposes well against much of the rest of my collection. The gargoyle base is another great addition, and in short I’m actually rather fonder of this figure than I thought I’d be. So would I recommend it…. Even at $270… strangely enough yes!

Where to Buy -
This can be bought direct from Play Imaginative direct from their website for the full RRP of $269.99 here.

Or you can use one of the many site sponsors that stock it, like
BBTS who have him for the same price as does Alter Ego, Urban Collector and Fanboy Collectibles (and if you are in the US you may save a ton of money on shipping if you buy from one of the these).

Or you can hit up eBay where the regular version is going for between £280 up to $320 and the limited gloss version is demanding between $350 up to a eye watering $599… yeah, good luck with that one bud.

This product was purchased for the review by the reviewer. Photos and text by Jeff Parker.

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