Toy Review: McFarlane Batman Dark Nights Metal Wave 2 and Arkham Knight
Every toy company that ever gets DC Comics rights makes massive amounts of Batman. That’s just a rule. But only McFarlane Toys actually bases each one on a canonical comic version (well, with maybe one exception we’ll get to). Other toy companies paint Batman different colors, give him wild accessories like skis or skateboards, and ensures he fires a missile, then calls it good. McFarlane goes into the comics, finds an artistic rendering of Batman-as-the-Joker-with-Hawkman-wings, and makes that. In doing so, the company is arguably driving more toy collectors to comics than ever before. I fully confess to buying Dark Nights Metal just to understand exactly what’s going on in the toy variants. (Note: I still don’t understand it. The book is dense and confusing to any reader coming in cold. But the artwork is cool.)
Dark Nights Metal, as a toy property at least, essentially features evil versions of Batman who have the powers of another familiar DC character. Serving a dark deity named Barbatos, they’re led by The Batman Who Laughs, who is basically Batman as Joker. The latest figure wave from the series consists of a four-figure wave with bonus build-a-figure, and a two-pack. At the same time, McFarlane Toys also put out a two figure sub-wave based on the Arkham Knight video game, featuring Batman and Deathstroke.
Batman and Deathstroke also feature gold variants, which aren’t just a tradition in Batman lines, but also McFarlane Toys from the very beginning. Gold Deathstroke is a Walmart exclusive, while gold Batman is a rare chase. Both come with foil variant trading cards, and use the single color plus judicious use of wash and highlights to really showcase the details of the sculpt.
Deathstroke figures inevitably sell well, and this one should fare no differently. The only disappointment is that he includes just one weapon — the katana — which he can hold in one hand. A gun, and a warped one at that, comes perma-sculpted to his leg. For a master marksman, that’s disappointing. Also worthy of note: neither Deathstroke nor the Batman in his wave features usable mid-torso articulation. That’s no big deal, as the extra sculpt detail is worth it.
This Batman looks much improved from the previous Arkham Asylum version. For one thing, his face looks human. And the armor is more Nolan Dark Knight-ish, including the fact that he can easily turn his head. The gold utility belt could have stood a wash, but that should make an easy custom for those inclined.
The Dark Nights Metal build-a-figure is The Merciless, a.k.a. Batman with the powers of Ares. And, perhaps not coincidentally and certainly not technically legally, the belt buckle and chains of Spawn.
He’s an impressive chunk of figure, with a shiny metallic finish that in the right light creates a translucent illusion. Because the figures in this wave all cost $5 more apiece, the economics of it all are basically the same as if he were sold separately. Usual BAF logic does not apply here. Hasbro, for example, typically does a figure as a BAF if it’s either too large to sell at regular price, or if it’s a character they’re worried won’t sell by itself. Neither case seems to be true here — it’s an awesome figure, but not bigger than The Devastator (Doomsday Batman), who did sell separately. Still, we must add that while some Hasbro waves contain “filler” figures on generic bodies who might not sell well otherwise, each figure in this wave is a winner.
The regular Bruce Wayne Batman in the wave represents the cover art for Dark Nights Metal, with torn cape and two axes. In design he’s not wholly different from some of the recent kid-friendly Spin Master Batman toys. But the sculpt s more intricate, with armor details and simulated fabric tears. McFarlane 7-inch figures generally have a uniform 22-point articulation scheme, worth mentioning only when a given figure deviates. In this case, that’s in the neck. Rather than a double ball joint, the head and neck are fused into a giant thumb-like piece, closer to the switch out heads NECA does with Ultimate Terminator figures. So yes, we’re back to a Batman who has trouble turning his head. Still, if this were the McFarlane Toys of 20 years ago, you’d have gotten this Batman permanently stuck in the cover pose with limited hidden articulation only. Consider the progress.
The Superman of this wave is a Joker-infected version. But he comes on a broad, stocky body in a clean enough costume that one can easily imagine a more normal repaint, sans torn cape and crazy smile. Weird variant nature aside, it is McFarlane Toys’ best Superman body to date, with all articulation cleanly incorporated into the physique shape. His fists swap out for weird cat-claw hand gestures, for some reason. And unfortunately no flight stand is included, but thankfully extra flight stands come easily these days.
The surprising highlight of the wave is “Crow” Robin, by far its smallest figure. Though he lacks the double elbow and knee joints, he features a rubber costume that entirely conceals his hip and torso articulation, and cleverly conceals shoulder joints with seams. A metal chain hooks over the loop in his throat. And he’s supremely creepy, a testament to McFarlane Toys’ love of monsters.
The only issue is one of sales patterns. Because The Batman Who Laughs has three Crow Robins, the figure has three possible headsculpts, only one of which comes in the package. Online retailers don’t say which one is which, so it’s a crapshoot for buyers everywhere save eBay. And anyone buying all three winds up with two extra Merciless torsos. If there’s anyone who wants Merciless but not Crow Robin, cool. But it’s hard to imagine a collector who likes one and not the other.
I strongly suspect McFarlane may do an army-builder two-pack as a future exclusive. It seems like an obvious gimme. But for now, just pick the one you want at retail. The one provided with our review sample seems as good as any.
McFarlane’s already on their second Batman Who Laughs, but they didn’t rely on simple reuse. With a new open-mouthed head sculpt and new body, this one incorporates intricately sculpted wings. And unlike so many other figures with wings (Hi, Masters of the Universe Classics!), this figure holds his wings in place quite nicely. They have not accidentally fallen out once, despite featuring the usual slender ball joints on such things.
Flash and Red Death (evil Batman as Flash) include the first diorama piece for these figures: a rock base with two foot pegs. It’s a looser foot fit than the standard included stands, and shouldn’t necessarily be expected to hold figures in place forever. But it does allow for running poses.
The Flash is a slight resculpt of the single-carded figure, minus lightning/speed force effects. He still contains all the holes for them to clip on, but has a new (sour-faced) head and hands. Note that Red Death also has a hole in his back for that one speed force effect, but none of the rest.
Because the solo Flash figure is a better one with all the accessories, the reason to buy the two-pack is mainly Red Death. Is he worth it? For people who really like the character, sure. But unlike some of the other McFarlane figures, he’s not necessarily as inherently cool to the casual buyer as a large rock monster or demon knight. He is still basically a “speedster.”
Also the trading cards in the two-pack are foil variants, if that’s an incentive.
At the end of year one of the license, the company made great strides. Here’s to hoping they don’t rest on any laurels, and keep it up. Take a look at even more images in the gallery below, and then tell us what you think.
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