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Batgirl

DCD Justice
by Artemis

Lots of arguments get started about Alex Ross. Some - many, in fact - believe he's the best thing ever to happen to comic art, while a vocal minority decry his heavy use of static model reference and over-rendered metallics... me, I'm somewhere in the middle: he does neat-looking covers, but I'd rather someone with a bit more vitality handle the interiors (Ross on covers and Eaglesham on interior pencils is pretty "dream team" for Justice Society of America, for instance). So I've never read Justice, and bought this action figure just because... well, it's what I do. You don't ask crack addicts why they're buying this particular hit, do you? Yeah.

Batgirl lends a hand to help the Justice League in its fight against evil.

Wow, they went all-out on the bio text. And as I write this my broadband's having one of its occasional fits of existential ennui and refusing to work, so I can't look up Justice to find out what Batgirl actually did in it anyway. Oh, right, she "lent a hand." Maybe literally, maybe figuratively, who knows? Or maybe she and Supergirl had a fling. Yeah, let's go with that.

The thing about Alex Ross is that he's religiously realistic - he doesn't stylize, he doesn't exaggerate, he doesn't dick around with proportions just to make the overall image look better... he does his darndest to draw characters who could physically exist as real people. As a result, aside from any rejigging he does with costumes, an Alex Ross-based Batgirl action figure is just a Batgirl action figure. You can put her side by side with the earlier Showcase Presents Batgirl (derived from the equally un-stylised work of Carmine Infantino), and they just look like the same person, maybe five years apart. She's grown up a bit, tweaked the costume here and there, ditched the handbag (thank the gods), and gotten a more serious-looking cape and cowl, but they're pretty damned similar.

So much so, in fact, that you really have to give DC Direct credit for not re-using anything - Babs by Ross is 100% new, from her more sensible boots to her spikier bat-ears. She stands about 6¾" tall - same height as Carminegirl, with one having taller ears, the other taller heels, so they even out - and her physique is very plausible, for a fit, active woman whose exercise regimen is more geared towards athletics and martial arts than winning swimsuit contests. Only her waist stands out - or rather, doesn't - being a bit thin, but with the costume obviously intended to be skin-tight, it's nothing a real woman couldn't manage.

The face is the main area of difference - it's a very Alex Ross face, very realistic, devoid of any kind of comicbook simplification or stylisation. She's got a rather square face, with a strong jaw and a level gaze - honestly, I think she looks a bit bored, even plain, with no makeup or vivacity in her expression to liven things up, and with the lack of posing options we'll get to in a minute, I find that's especially damaging to the figure.

Compare her to the art and there's something there in Alex Ross's work, a spark of life to her, that the figure just doesn't capture, and with the emphasis so heavily on realism, it's got no backup plan. On the plus side, her hair is a highly detailed sculpt, settling very tightly over her cloaked shoulders, and though there's no highlighting or paint to draw out the sculpt, its sharpness alone looks good enough to pass muster.

Her bat-logo is simply painted on - it and all the other yellows are a richer, more golden hue than the Infantino Batgirl's equivalent - but the boots and gloves are sculpted at the edges, while the belt and cape are separate parts, the belt free-floating around her hips, the cape set tightly around her shoulders. Although it's a softer plastic, it holds a decent sculpt, and the sharpness of the lines coming up to the cape's tie at her neck has a very strong Batman feel.

Unfortunately, it's also pretty much immobilizing. Babs has the usual DC Direct minimum wage of articulation - balljoint neck, swivel-pin shoulders, pin elbows, peg hips, pin knees - but she really can't use any of it. The head is completely locked in place by the tight fit of her hair over her shoulders - you can turn it a little, and tilt it forwards, but the moment you tilt it the hair lifts up off her shoulders and looks ridiculous, hovering in mid-air. Looking up, or side to side without tilting down, is out of the question.

The cape's tight around her shoulders too, and since it's got such a pronounced sculpt built into it, moving the shoulder joints beneath it is a bad move - the flexible cape allows some motion, about 45° outwards, but like the hair, it just looks off. With no twisting swivels in the arms - no biceps or glove tops - you can't achieve many decent poses anyway. The legs have that peculiarly useless quality than most DC Direct figures have from the waist down - you can move one leg out forward and tilt the knee back to get the foot flat to the ground again, but there's no ankle joint, so the back leg in any striding pose can't balance properly. It's the case with many DCD figures, but especially so with this one - all she will do is stand there, looking butch but vacant.

Besides the standard Justice base - a ridiculous black and silver monstrosity, which fortunately she can do without, because it takes up a stupid amount of shelf space for one figure - Babs has the accessory no Bat figure can do without, the batarang. Rather than re-using the batarang from earlier figures like Batwoman and Thrillkiller Batgirl, Rossgirl has a new one (new to me, anyway), styled much more like the batsignal logo, narrower and taller, and with high points at the tops of the wings. Babs's hands are sculpted with a recess designed for the point to fit into, to make it look like she's holding it, but unfortunately the recesses are too high and too straight - it's obvious she's not holding it between thumb and forefinger, in the approved batarang style.

That's about it for Batgirl this time 'round - she looks good, but she's boring, and she looks like she knows it too. This is the eighth (and final) Justice series, so there's plenty more of these kinds of figures out there - as part of a group display, Batgirl would do okay as just one of the crowd, but she doesn't have the pizzazz to make it on her own on the shelf.


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