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Duela Dent

Ame-Comi Heroine Series
by Artemis

Fortunately she's not. If you feel like you just walked in on a conversation in progress, I finished my last Ame-Comi review (Jesse Quick) fearing that the factory's apparent "Slap it on anywhere, near enough," attitude to paint would wreck Duela here, so there's your answer - whatever went wrong, only went wrong for Jesse. But lest this be the shortest review in OAFE history, let's go into more detail.

Steam & Sass! Clockwork cute and dressed to impress, Duela Dent is steampunk chic, strutting her stuff, backpack brimming with Joker toxin, and carrying a killer cane. Gears and steam, lace and goggles, the booted and brass-knuckled beauty is a corseted cutie, decked out in futuristic Victorian vixen attire. The rumoured daughter of The Joker is one deadly doll!

Since most people will be going "Duela who?", and the few outside the truly rabid encyclopedia-minded comic fans who do recognise the name will be going "Did you have to remind me of Countdown?", it's worth noting that Duela's identity matters not one bit to this statue - whatever the handwaving explanation may be, the fact is that she's the Ame-Comi Joker, and that's that. I'm hoping this kind of thing will lead to whoever's in charge of character selection at the Ame-Comi office just biting the bullet and gender-bending anyone they feel like, since while heroes tend to go in for franchising their costumes, villains don't so much. Is there even a female Lex Luthor out there? Because come on, you can't tell me a bald supervillainess in a busty suit of kryptonite armour wouldn't fit right into this line.

So, Jokerette. Like it says right there in the bio, Duela's all steampunked up, which is a really clever move on the designer's part. The Joker already gets around in purposefully anachronistic menswear a lot of the time (well, it's out of date these days, not so much when he was created), so pushing the timeframe a few decades further back doesn't lose the Joker look - you've got the top hat (making her height just over 9"), the spats, the frock coat sleeves, it's a costume you can imagine the real Joker wearing. (Including the thong and corset - come on, you can't tell me he wouldn't do it just to make Batman do a double-take.) And in its own right, no matter how overused it gets these days, steampunk remains damn cool to look at. And the whole notion is inherently kind of crazy, so it's even more appropriate for Duela.

As I mentioned in the Jesse review, Duela's one of the detail-heavier of the Ame-Comi sorority - her costume is a stylish wealth of buckled belts, lace frills, rivets, corsetry, and fabrics, with gold filigree thrown on because why the hell not. The sculpt is technically sharp, and well designed - the spats around her ankles have a weight to their hang, the bustle-like half-skirt is convincingly contoured, and the corset has a tight, thick-padded feel thanks to delicate fabric detail around the seams. And as I mentioned at the start of this review, the paint hasn't arrived at the party embarrassingly half-drunk. There are tiny spots where the filigree's gold has touched the fabric, but with such thin sculpted edges, that's not surprising - the main thing is that the gold is thick enough to sell the look of the metal as separate from the underlying cloth it's sculpted onto, but not so thick that it's spilled everywhere in a way that draws the eye. High-contrast edges, like the white skin against dark clothes, are handled either as joins between separate sculpted pieces, or where they're not, are cleanly delineated. Overall, when you look at Duela, you see what you're meant to see, not the few minor mistakes that made it through, and are honestly inevitable in mass-production.

Her main steampunk element - the steam part, anyway - is her Joker toxin backpack, a cute little gadget with arbitrarily exposed gears and brass detailing, and a little window into the toxin tank, a clear plastic insert with a sculpted plane inside it (flat plane, not airplane) that does quite a decent job of looking like the top of the liquid. They even got the angle right, slanted slightly compared to the angle of the unit, to take into account the slight lean Duela's shoulders are at. It's hooked up to, naturally, a metal flower fixed to her collar - or possibly, given that there's no visible attachment (though it's right next to the collar and shoulder pad), and the tube vanishes into one of her belts and comes out again thinner before connecting to the flower, maybe the whole thing's built into her. She is steampunk, after all, they do that sort of thing. A missing element, shown in the art, is a smokestack-like plume of toxin vapour coming from the exhaust pipe on the backpack, but there's no way to do that physically; a clear plastic piece would look decidedly ordinary. Shame though, it does look very cool in art form.

(For those keeping score of the little sculptor-vs-painter lingerie war Ame-Comi have got going, Duela got to keep her thong back without it being clumsily painted as full-bottom panties; I guess nobody in DC Direct's overbearing censorship department thought to peer up her skirt. The prudes still lead 3-1, though. No you can't have a photo, OAFE isn't that desperate for readers. While we're on search engine bait though, her boobs are really pushing up out of that bodice, she must be half a micron away from a nipple slip.)

Her face, as seems to almost always happen, differs from the packaging art somewhat - but for once, it's a positive. As usual the sculpt lacks the characterful expression of the art, although it's a near thing in this case, a slight adjustment to the eyes, and opening of the mouth, taking away her mischievous poise. But the doll-like vaguely unfocused eyes and vacant smile actually works for Duela, because it makes her look ever so slightly creepy as hell, making the uncanny valley work for the statue. Nice move if it was intentional, happy coincidence otherwise. Aside from being based on pure white rather than flesh-toned, her facial sculpt and detail paintwork are exactly what previous Ame-Comi statues have led us to expect, which is to say nothing remarkable, but easily good enough to pass muster; Duela also has a Dark Knight-esque scrawl of lipstick across her cheeks, although there's no sculpted scarring there, so maybe she's decided (in one of her lucid moments) that emulating daddy really only ought to go so far. Finishing off the steampunk look, her top hat sports a pair of goggles, with a variety of rotating lenses, one of which is raised (and fixed in place, not mobile).

Obviously she's not going to be winning any articulation awards, but Duela does pretty well for herself by Ame-Comi standards. To help get her pose just so, she's got swivel ankles (at the tops of her socks), swivel biceps (the sleeve tops), and a swivel neck. Besides fine-tuning, you get (possibly inadvertently) one genuine option out of that: her left hand, raised to touch the brim of her top hat, can be positioned off to one side, as the packaging art suggests, or if you like it can be brought down so the grip is more towards the front of the brim. I actually prefer that, with the hand half-covering her face - it plays into the sexy-creepy look.

Besides the new-style oval Ame-Comi base, with a peg for her left foot - she stands quite firmly on it, but has a bit of a backward lean that keeps her from going without the base - Duela gets one "accessory" (the pose kind of makes it mandatory), her cane. Presumably it's got some trick whatchamacallit hidden away inside to justify the bio calling it "killer" (unless they were just being fancy), but so far as the real world goes, it's just a plain ol' stick, with a little nice paintwork around the handle, and a brass tip, to make it look suitably posh. The ball has a peg extending sideways, which kind of fits into a groove in Duela's right palm - it is a groove, not a single hole, and the peg is a bit longer than it needs to be, so from the side it's a little too far from her hand for her to have the heel of her thumb down on it to hold it. From the front it looks alright, though.

Duela/Joker's a reassuring return to form for Ame-Comi after the badly-painted and somewhat boring Jesse/Flash - she's imaginative and fresh, but still true to her character in the essentials, and her technical marks are high. These things aren't cheap, but there're no hidden nasty surprises, or lacking elements that'll have you going "On second thought..." a couple of days after you've bought her - if you see her in the store and like what you see, there's nothing to complain about. Now we just need a proper adversary - come on, that Batman they did doesn't count as Ame-Comi, the line needs a Kate Kane Batwoman.

-- 07/03/11

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