Saturday 19 November 2022

Toybox REVIEW: MAFEX Knightfall Batman

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Release Date: July 2022
RRP: 8800 yen

The 1990s were a strange time for comics, particularly as it seemed like everyone's favourite superheroes were suddenly getting replaced with new versions. Over in Gotham City the Knightfall storyline saw Bruce Wayne crippled at the hands of Bane, with the antihero Azrael (real identity Jean-Paul Valley) taking the mantle in his absence. As Batman, Valley decided that Bruce's tactics were obsolete – donning enhanced battle armour and dealing with criminals in a far more merciless manner. As his Azrael conditioning continued to make him more and more erratic, Bruce is forced to engage him in battle to reclaim the mantle of the Bat. Now Medicom pay tribute to this pivotal Batman story with the release of MAFEX Knightfall Batman, showing off Valley's armour in all its 90s glory.

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MAFEX Knightfall Batman comes in a striking red and black box (which, intentional or otherwise, nicely calls back to Valley's origins as Azrael) which sports the Knightfall-era Batman logo in the bottom corner alongside an image of the figure itself. There are plenty of other images of the figure spread across both the sides and back of the box, but I'm not sure why you'd need so many when you can get such a good look at the toy itself through that giant window section at the front. Inside the figure and accessories are all neatly laid out on a moulded plastic tray, with the display stand bagged and taped to the back of the tray. Sadly whereas Hush Batman's packaging featuring a nice image from said comic on the inside of the box, Knightfall Batman's is just a blank red space. A bit of a shame really, as I've always really appreciated when the comic art itself is incorporated into the design of the packaging.

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MAFEX Knightfall Batman is, exactly as the name suggests, based on the initial armour Valley adopts as Batman. Over time he would continue to adapt it further (giving it both a helmet and bladed cape more in line with Azrael's appearance), but this initial appearance works as the perfect combination of Batman and Azrael aesthetics. Sporting a full-face mask, elaborate chest piece with shoulder spikes and chunky clawed gauntlets, this is something quite different but still unmistakably Batman. Colour-wise it takes all the traditional Batman colours but uses them in its own more unique layout, with the grey undersuit giving way to bright yellow armour (and utility belts) and then in turn heavier blue armour on top of that. Medicom have really done an incredible job on the colours with this release, the pearlescent finish of the yellow on the torso combined with the metallic blues of the abdomen, neck and body armour really making the figure pop. When it comes to comic accuracy you could argue that the shoulder spikes should curve in a bit more towards the head, but that’s a minor nitpick for what's otherwise a fantastic looking figure.

All of this praise comes before we even get on to the cape, and of course no one does capes quite like MAFEX does. Made of fabric with bendable wires running down it in four places (both at the far ends of the cape and then also closer toward the centre), this is a cape that you can really get some amazing displays out of. While Hush Batman's cape was good, it's hefty size sometimes made it a bit unwieldy. Knightfall Batman's on the other hand is just the right size – big enough to get really imposing action poses out of but also able to fold down enough for more basic posing as well. The way it's built into the shoulder armour probably helps as well, allowing for a more seamless flow than Bruce's standard cowl. As is always the case with wired soft goods you need to approach it with an element of caution to ensure the wires don't end up tearing through the fabric, but this isn't a cape that feels like it'll suddenly break on you either.

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Articulation is something Medicom hold to a reasonably high standard with this line so it's good to see that, despite the added bulk and armour flourishes this version of Batman has, poseability is pretty damn good. Altogether Knightfall Batman features; 
- Ball jointed head, neck, torso, waist, wrists and hips 
- Swivel hinge shoulders and ankles 
- Butterfly joint shoulders 
- Double hinge elbows and knees 
- Single hinge toe sections Bicep swivels 
One might easily think that the huge collar piece might have an impact on shoulder movement, but while getting the arms straight out might be out of the question in general arm poseability is extremely good. This is largely thanks to some fantastic butterfly joints, which are able to bring the arms forwards and free from the confines of the collar piece above. If anything it’s the elbows that are actually the more restricted section, since the gauntlets come into contact with the bicep before you can get the full range of motion out of the joint. The lower half of the body isn't too shabby either despite it not being quite so loaded with articulation, those buttery smooth knee and ankle joints doing a lot of great work when it comes to perfecting posing and balancing. If there was one complaint to be had its that the ball joint construction around the upper and lower torso pieces can sometimes make the body look a little gappy, but the metallic colouring does a surprisingly good job of drawing your eyes away from it.

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The first of the accessories is an alternate John-Paul Valley Jr. head, whose bright blonde hair and thick eyebrows highlight just how difference his appearance is from Bruce Wayne. The head is directly based off how he looks in the Knightfall comic and has been very nicely sculpted with a stern expression. Swapping the heads is as simple as popping the masked head off of the ball joint and replacing accordingly, and while the connection itself is very secure there also isn't any difficulty in swapping them either. Although no loose mask accessory has been included the mask can double as a piece for Jean-Paul to then hold in a pose, which again does a great job of emphasising how different this take on the Batman mantle is (or at the very least, was at the time).

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The remaining accessories include three additional pairs of hands (two open pairs with revealed claws and one in a grasping pose), two Batarang-launching effect parts and a grappling hook piece attached to poseable wire. Both the Batarang and grappling hook parts attach to the wrist gauntlets – the effect parts on the top side above the fists and the grappling hook underneath. While the grappling hook isn't all that different to what's been seen on previous MAFEX Batman figures the Batarang effects are particularly nice, with the iconic-shaped weapons launching out though a stream of translucent white plastic. They are very good pieces for giving the figure a more comic book feel, as the style and shape of them makes them feel like they've been directly lifted off a panel. Rounding off the accessories is the standard MAFEX clear plastic articulated display stand, which is unusual in that it comes with a variety of display options. In addition to the usual claw configuration, there are also additional pieces to create three-pronged claw – presumably for additional support in the most gravity-defying of poses. While I personally found I didn't need it when taking these pictures, more options is certainly never a bad thing.

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Knightfall was one of my main introductions to mainline Batman comics so I write this knowing full well that there's an element of bias here, but MAFEX Knightfall Batman is another triumph in Medicom's growing range of comic-based figures. While it might not have the accessory count of Hush Batman or be as classic a design, Knightfall Batman certainly makes up for it in just how striking the suit is. Those gorgeous metallic and pearlescent colours combined with a poseable cape that completely outclasses its competitors, fans of this (admittedly divisive) story will not be disappointed by this release. MacFarlane might have a cheaper alternative on the market, but this is one figure definitely worth the extra cost.

1 comment:

Hallebose said...

Cool action figure