Wednesday 17 February 2021

Toybox REVIEW: MAFEX Batman (Batman: Hush)

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Release Date: July 2020
RRP: 7800 yen

If there’s one toy line that feels unrivalled when it comes to high-end comic-style superhero figures right now, it’s Medicom’s MAFEX line. Sure they don’t come cheap and long delays are often common, but when it comes to those perfect comic sculpts there’s no one quite like them. But as nice as they are, my previous experience with the MAFEX line has been mixed to say the least. Poor QC is something often on the tip of everyone’s tongues, and after having one figure have both wrist joints completely disintegrate 30 seconds out of the box (followed by months of exchanging emails with Medicom customer service in order to get replacement parts) certainly soured me on them somewhat. However so many of these figures just look so good it’s hard to say no, and MAFEX Batman (Batman: Hush) was just one I couldn’t pass up. Based on the caped crusader in the acclaimed 2002 story by Jeph Loeb (which was turned into an animated film in 2019), this is the first in the line’s range of Hush figures which has now gone on to include Superman, the Joker, Catwoman and of course Hush himself.

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MAFEX Batman (Batman: Hush) comes in a nice blue box that nicely matches the colour of Batman’s cowl/gloves/boots, with a nice big window that lets you peek at both the figure and half of the accessories. The front of the box also has Batman: Hush written alongside the window in big bold lettering, along with a bust image of the figure in the bottom corner along with the DC Comics, Medicom and MAFEX logos. One spine features this big Hush letting again along with a different image of the figure, whilst the other is a more standard style bookend spine with a full body image. That spine also notes this as the 105th MAFEX release. The back of the packaging has a number of figure images, showing it off in various poses as well as a full look at all the accessories included. Inside everything is neatly laid out on a moulded plastic clamshell tray, which is in front of a cool tray featuring artwork from the Hush comic.

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While there have been a lot of Batman costumes and designs over the years which all differ in their own unique ways, straight off the bat if you’re looking for a solid “comic style” Batman figure you’ve come to the right place. While some people might prefer Batman to have a black cowl, longer ears or the yellow and black circular emblem on the chest, the Hush version is very recognisable as Batman and stays faithful in all the right places. Medicom have also done an EXCEPTIONAL job at copying Jim Lee’s artwork from the Hush comic, not only translating the design really well but also bringing it to life as a 3D action figure. Despite the somewhat “soft” feel of the plastic used the figure has really nicely defined sculpting, and there isn’t a lick of paint or detailing that feels out of place. You’ve got all that grey and dark blue, and then that bright yellow utility belt that immediately catches your eyes. 

But of course, the main thing that everyone is going to be talking about with this figure is the cape. Now I know some people are still firmly in the camp of soft plastic capes being better (I used to be one of them myself), but if there’s any release that proves soft goods are truly superior it’s this one. This cape is absolutely HUGE - folded out it’s easily four or five times the width of the figure and just over the height as well. But on top of being wired in key areas to allow for elaborate posing its also capable of cleverly folding down into a more manageable sizes as well, making more relaxed poses possible as well. If you’re new to the world of pliable fabric capes then this will be daunting at first - I’ve got a fair few releases with them now and I still don’t feel like I’ve fully gotten to grips with this. But once you’ve fiddled around with it for a while and seen what it’s capable of, you’ll be instantly converted. Look at these pictures and think about how many of these poses wouldn’t be possible with a plastic cape.

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The MAFEX line can easily rival the best of them when it comes to sculpting but they're definitely able to match up when it comes to articulation as well. Batman's cape isn't the only thing that's highly articulated around here, with the body itself also featuring the following;
- Ball jointed head, neck, torso, waist and wrists
- Pull down ball jointed hips
- Swivel hinge shoulders and ankles
- Butterfly joint shoulders
- Double hinged elbows and knees
- Single hinge toe sections
First and foremost MAFEX's fragility issues have often highlighted themselves when it comes to posing, and although Batman doesn't appear to have any of the problems I've previously seen in this line if you're ever in any doubt do not force the joint. A bit of heat (be it from hot water or a quick blast from a hairdryer) or shock oil can work wonders and will hopefully resolve any problems you may have. Though the drop down hips aren't quite up to the standards Bandai have set for them over on the S.H. Figuarts line, in every other aspect Batman is easily just as good. There's even a certain fluidity to moving the joints that you just don't get with Figuarts, and in some ways feels more akin to Max Factory's Figma line (to think of the closest comparison). You'll spend far more time moving the cape out of the way to prevent it hiding the body than you will stressing out that poses aren't quite right. From hiding in the shadows to pouncing on his enemies and beating the crap out of them, this Batman looks fantastic in pretty much any pose you put him in. And once again, it's the options you get with the cape that make it all the better.

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The figure comes with three heads altogether. Fixed to the body in-package is your classic Batman scowling face, but then on top of that there’s also an angrier gritted teeth face and an unmasked Bruce Wayne head as well. The Bruce head also has an alternate bare skin neck piece as well to fully complete that cowl-less look. All three heads really capture Jim Lee’s artwork beautifully, and the Bruce Wayne head also has those chiselled good looks that you wouldn’t expect to see under the mask unless you knew otherwise. Swapping the pieces out is nice and easy too, with all the parts easy to pop off the balljoints but feeling nice and secure once they’re on. In the case of swapping the Batman heads around I often found it easier to pull the whole neck off of the body since that usually gave way much easier than the head itself, and then pulling the head off the separated piece. One might argue that a more stoic masked head might have been nice as well, but having the face options for a Batman figure be “angry” or “angrier” make perfect sense.

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Those aren’t the only accessories either, as Medicom have ensured that enough extras have been packed into this release to do Batman’s utility belt proud. Also included are four extra pairs of standard swappable hands (in addition to the default closed fists), one pair of bladed fists, one pair of hands each with a grappling gun, four silver batarangs (two standard bat shaped and two a curved, simplified version) and finally both a shortened and extended grappling hook. Not only is this a brilliant little selection, but the execution of it all has made posing and parts-swapping as streamlined as possible. There’s no fiddling about with accessories to get them to properly fit into hands here, as all the big ones have been pre-moulded into the hands and the batarangs comfortably slot between the fingers of their intended pair. Swapping hands has been a big fear of mine on MAFEX figures but Batman has notably thicker pegs than the Spider-Man releases, which helps take away the fear of breakage. If any hands seem a little stiff to take on or off though, I’d still recommend a bit of heat just to soften the plastic. The grappling hooks are particularly impressive, with the “ropes” made from metal rods rather than plastic to give them a real sturdiness that I didn’t expect at all. The rods just slide comfortably into the slots on the front of the gun, and stay in place firmly. 

Finally there’s also an articulated display stand, which comes as standard with most MAFEX figures. This is your standard clear plastic base with three-point articulation stand, although the claw that fits on the end is much thicker and able to wrap around the whole of the figure’s waist. You might need a little bit of extra support at the back or either end to get the cape posed exactly how you want it, but this is more than enough to hold the figure itself.

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My previous experience with this toy line has been interesting to say the least, but if there’s any figure that was going to persuade me that they are as every bit as good as they look it’s MAFEX Batman (Batman: Hush). In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s hard to imagine a better Batman figure at this scale. Not only does it nail the art style of the source material, but the figure itself is both sturdy and brilliantly sculpted. The wired cape is huge and daunting at first, but after a few minutes playing about you quickly fall in love with it. It allows so such a higher caliber of posing, and really captures the essence of the dark knight. Throw in some sweet accessories to go along with it, and Medicom have produced a real winner. And if you prefer your Batman in black rather than blue, well MAFEX have got you covered there as well. A figure so good it was worth releasing twice.

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