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Morrigan

Dragon Age
by Artemis

Dragon Age - not Mass Effect with swords, which threw me for a bit of a loop when I first bought it, but it's got plenty going for it: strong storyline, some very engaging characters, evocative world-building, epic battle set-pieces, short Americans, foursomes, hardcore sadomasochism, bestiality, something for everyone. And just in case all that wasn't enough, it's got Claudia Black.

Flemeth, the legendary Witch of the Wilds, raised Morrigan as a daughter alone in the remote corners of Ferelden. Morrigan is an exotic beauty who has learned her mother's arts outside the Circle of Magi's gilded cage, being both a mage and a shapeshifter. She will stop at nothing to further her mysterious obsessions.

Morrigan is a difficult character to get to grips with - she turns up all but topless and speaking in That Voice, but she's also labouring under the burden of an alignment best described as Ruthless Stupid, and needs a lot of patient nurturing and seasoning before you can have a conversation with her without experiencing the urge to give her a slap. Fortunately, her dialogue and character arc are among the best you'll find in video games, so it's no real torment to work on her to the point where she starts using her own brain and you stop getting "Morrigan Disapproves" popping up on the screen any time you do anything sensible. Plus, whatever she's saying, she's saying it in That Voice, so it's difficult to dislike her.

DC Unlimited have taken on the Dragon Age line, along with fellow BioWare game Mass Effect 2 (and various gaming also-rans like Heavenly Sword's Nariko, presumably to pad out the numbers), expanding their horizons from their World of Warcraft base camp in the non-comicbook world - thanks to whatever snafu held up everything DC Unlimited and Direct did for the better part of the past few months, they're only just turning up now. Unusually for "the girl" in an action figure series, a case could be made that Morrigan is the headliner of the set, being a core party member recruited very early in the game - the rest of series one is Teyrn Loghain (an off-screen NPC much of the time, however politically important), Duncan (significant, but so obviously the Obi-Wan that his death early on shouldn't surprise anyone), and, of all things, a Genlock, who are about as generic as generic enemies get.

Compared to the big boys in the suits of armour, though, Morrigan's a fairly little slip of a thing - not tiny, at 6½" tall (thus in scale with World of Warcraft, as well as a whole bunch of other lines - including Stargate, for Vala/Morrigan slash figuretoon goodness), but your typical slender mage lady. Her outfit, evidently somewhat on the improvised side, consists mainly of a leather skirt sewn together from various pieces and fringed in straps, a single sleeve with a decorated shoulder plate attached, and that ridiculous scarf/hood thing of hers, with a teensy tiny spaghetti strap bra underneath just to reassure the censors that no actual nudity is going to befoul the wholesome goodness of a game where you get literally covered in the blood of your enemies ("enemies," in some cases, just meaning they were in the way when you were feeling impatient, too). Fun fact - stripped of their attire (Morrigan's getup is classified as "robes") everyone in Dragon Age reverts to a dull-looking set of underwear, in Morrigan's case meaning her breasts are more covered when she takes her clothes off.

There's quite a bit of detail to her, and DCD haven't skimped on sculpt and paint to any appreciable degree. The skirt - flexible, sitting free around her hips - has a faint drybrush to give it some highlights, mostly on the straps, but also deliberately heavier on the stitched-on panel on her left hip, selling the patchwork effect. Underneath she's sporting black pants, weathered with a grey highlight, and her boots have painted bindings and silver buckles.

Up top she's unpainted skintone plastic for a base, but between her bra and the assortment of presumably-magical bling she's wearing there's quite a bit going on (besides her cleavage, that is). With no dark basecoat the silver and gold of her necklaces don't stand out as much as they might against her skin, but they're not so pale that it's a real problem, and the paint covers these details well without slopping over onto the flesh. The hood (not that she ever wears it up in the game) is the main element above the waist, and unfortunately it's a bit hit-and-miss - there's nothing drastically wrong with it, but the way it pulls tight against her breasts, then hangs in loose folds, leaves a lot of room for the wash darkening the recesses to pool heavily while avoiding the flatter surfaces, giving it an over-shaded look. This varies from figure to figure, so check before you buy if you can - I saw various differences, but none that stood out as better (or especially worse) than any other.

Her face is good, but frustrating in that it captures her physical features passably well while mostly missing her expression. Everything is where it should be - the elfin face shape, the small mouth, the thin nose (not quite so much as in-game, but you can see what they were going for), the roughly styled sweep of her fringe across her forehead, the golden eyes with their narrow black lining. But while it looks, so much as most action figures do, like the face it's meant to, it doesn't look like Morrigan's inside there, because it's missing her distinctive narrowed gaze, and given that that's how she looks when she's feeling disdainful of those around her, she looks like that a lot.

She's much more a regular action figure by design than World of Warcraft's plastic statues, or Nariko's half-and-half approach, and she even shoots a bit above DC Direct's usual articulation model - unfortunately, she still falls a bit short of what I'd wish for. She's got a balljoint neck, but it's so tight it may as well be a swivel; her arms have swivel/pin shoulders, peg elbows, and swivel wrists, there's a swivel sternum hidden under the hoodie, and beneath her skirt she has peg hips, pin knees, and pin ankles. The skirt restricts her legs, as you'd expect, but it can be a bit more of a problem than you'd realise at first - she's sculpted resting her weight on her right foot, which is getting close to directly beneath her center of mass, and with no way to widen her stance or turn her feet, it can be a bit of a job finding a position where her legs look good, and she'll stay upright as well (no peg holes in her boots, incidentally). I found her arms troublesome as well - with only 90° in her elbows, and no bicep swivels, her options for wielding her staff in a plausible-looking pose are limited.

Speaking of the staff, it's her only accessory - a fairish, if plain-looking and simplified, replica of the game's generic mage's staff, with two vanes twirling around each other, and a gem set in the head. What's odd about it, though, is that I'm pretty sure it's not Morrigan's - granted I never paid much attention to what she was wielding (I was up front getting stuck in with my sword - so long as ice bolts kept smacking into the bad guys from her direction, I left her to her own devices), but so far as I recall, Morrigan's staff is a spiky wooden-looking thing. Perhaps the idea was to include this model of staff since it is generic, and could be used for any figure in the series, but leaving out Morrigan's actual weapon on that basis seems an odd choice.

As an action figure, she's no great shakes - she has her good points and her annoying issues, and nothing makes her stand out. As a replica of Morrigan, though, she ranks better than that - the switched staff, and the absence of her patent impatient glare, keep her a bit short of her potential, but I wouldn't warn any Dragon Age fan off of her on those accounts. Given how strongly the game's fandom prizes its storytelling and characterisation, I suspect that'll be enough to call her a success, average design be damned.

-- 02/05/11


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