Tuesday 30 May 2017

Toybox REVIEW: DC Collectibles Batman The Mask of the Phantasm Set

Release Date: January 2016 
RRP: £39.99/$39.99

If there’s one thing DC Collectibles’ range of Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures figures can’t be faulted for, it’s scope. Although the line has suffered severely from QC issues, delays and most recently an insistence on releasing over-priced sets, the line has done a good job of covering these two landmark series – not only featuring the obvious characters but also welcome surprises like Commissioner Gordon, Harvey Bullock, Firefly or Talia Al Ghul. In 1993 Batman: The Animated Series spawned The Mask of the Phantasm – a feature-length film that’s not only earned cult status but widely considered among the best animated films ever. So of course DC Collectibles were going to mark this entry in the line somewhere, releasing a special two-pack including both Batman and Phantasm figures.

The Mask of the Phantasm set comes in a nice big window box akin to some of the larger figures released in the line, such as Man-bat or the Roxy Rocket set. The window is nice and big so there isn’t a whole lot of room on the front for anything else, other than the film’s logo in the bottom corner, the set’s numbering and the figure names printed across the side of the window. Peering through behind the figures is the film’s Phantasm mask logo, which has also been printed on the back of the box along with all the mandatory information. The sculptor credits have been printed on the box’s underside, and inside the contents are housed across two standard plastic trays.

The B:TAS version of Batman was previously made available as a single-carded release, so in order to somewhat justify making this a two-pack the Batman included here is actually a variant version. That said, the difference is actually as minimal as possible – rather than the standard release’s default expression this Batman sports an alternate expression with squinted eyes and gritted teeth. The difference really is minimal, so owning this Batman is really only going to mean much to those who haven’t picked the figure up separately yet.

While you don’t really need a side-by-side comparison to notice just how Batman’s design changed between Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures, putting these figures together does illustrate just how extensive these changes were. As well as the obvious two-tone cape, yellow utility belt and different chest emblem, Animated Batman sports a slightly smaller frame and shorter cowl ears. These days I’m less inclined to say one design is better than the other, but the B:TAS version is undoubtedly the more “iconic” one. The paintwork is genuinely sharp on the figure, with the yellow highlights and cape’s blue underside really popping against the grey and black. After a childhood of owning Kenner figures where the chest symbol rubbed off after minimal play, it was really great to not only see it so nicely painted here but also raised off the chest itself.

The big advantage this version of Batman has over the other one though is that it’s far easier to pose, offering more seamless articulation as well as feet that are do a much better job of balancing that top-heavy body. Batman sports a ball-jointed head, ball-hinged shoulders, hinge-swivel elbows and wrists, a waist swivel, hinge-swivel hips, hinged knees and finally hinge-swivel feet. Whereas with a lot of the line there’s the constant worry that moving the figure will inevitably lead to breaking it, here everything moves like it should for once. It’s common knowledge that the line went through an overhaul after its first wave to up the quality, but this is one of the few times I’ve seen a really noticeable difference.

The downside to these figures being released as a two-pack however is that they’re both pretty light on accessories. Batman comes with just a Batarang, one pair of additional hands in order to be able to hold it and the usual display stand with turnaround line art on the base. One nice little touch though is that the base for these figures has the Mask of the Phantasm logo in the top corner as opposed to just a Batman: The Animated Series one.

But arguably the real prize in this set is Phantasm – the mysterious Batman-like figure exacting revenge on criminals across Gotham. The identity of Phantasm is Bruce Wayne’s ex-fiancĂ© Andrea Beaumont, who sought revenge on those who had murdered her father and ruined her life. While this was intended as a twist in the film itself, the original Kenner toy release didn’t keep it much of a secret as the Phantasm hood could be removed to reveal Andrea underneath. Still, it was a pretty great toy and one of the best in original Kenner range for the exact reason. Of course it also meant the toy’s proportions were completely off, which is why the DC Collectibles’ version instead goes for a straight Phantasm figure that perfectly matches the character’s onscreen appearance. The cape and hood are made from the same soft plastic as Batman’s cape, which while flexible is more to make the figure lighter than make it malleable. The claw hand could perhaps do with being a little larger (as well as painted silver rather than a matching grey) but it’s still much better proportioned than the original figure. It’s a design that’s translated particularly well to a 3D figure, and despite being a relatively simple one has a very striking presence among the rest of the B:TAS cast.

For articulation Phantasm sports a ball-hinged neck and shoulders, hinge-swivel elbows, a rotating waist, hinged-swivel hips and hinged knees and feet. There is also additional swivel points on the gloves and boots, with the left hand also able to swivel freely along with the hinge running through it. It’s not an especially wide range of movement but it’s enough to get some decent poses out of the figure, and the fact none of the joints are noticeably tight makes a huge difference. Sadly despite the head having a full range of movement, the fact the hood can’t turn with it means that it’s fairly limited when it comes to looking in a direction other than straight on. Angled poses are possible, but some of that face will inevitably be covered by that big soft plastic hood.

Phantasm also comes with a notably low number of accessories, consisting of just two additional left hands and her own personalised display stand with turnaround line art.

Despite their small accessory count and being largely underwhelmed by this whole line in general, I’ve found myself surprisingly impressed with the Mask of the Phantasm two-pack. Not only are the two figures really nicely sculpted and painted, but unlike many of the other figures that have graced the line their (still somewhat limited) articulation works smoothly and the pair can actually pull off a range of decent poses without the fear of them immediately breaking. Of course, the fact I was also lucky enough to pay a fraction of the set’s RRP (it’s currently available for £12.99 in B&M Bargains for any UK readers) was also a huge plus in its favour. At full price I’d perhaps be a bit more sceptical, but that aside these are among the few DC Collectibles figures I’ve bought without any lingering sense of disappointment.

No comments: