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Irina Spalco

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
by Artemis

It's no wonder we won the Cold War.

As the Soviet Union's foremost expert on psychic powers, Irina Spalko's understanding of the untapped potential of the human mind is matched only by her skill with a sword. Beautiful, cunning, and ruthless, Spalko leads a secret force of Russian commandos on a mission to find the crystal skull and harness its power in order to achieve Soviet domination.

Psychic powers were no laughing matter back then - both the Soviets and the US devoted considerable time and resources to investigating psychic warfare at one time or another, and it was some time before all involved realised it was completely useless and moved on. Since the Indy series has always dipped its toe into fantasy while mainly remaining on more solid ground, Irina split the difference - she really did have psychic powers, but she was useless anyway. To her credit she did manage to bust a lock on a door one time, but I'd suggest if you're going to go around giving yourself airs and waving your hand dramatically at people's heads, you should actually be able to read minds. At least Belloq really could steal anything Indy found, just like he boasted.

Anyway, the whole Indiana Jones line - cashing in on Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but extending an olive branch to Raiders fans as well - is a bit of a split-the-difference effort itself, aimed both at collectors who want to put figures on their shelves, and kids who want to play with them. The parallels to the Star Wars line are pervasive and unsurprising, and that's really the best mindset to be in when looking at Irina. She was never intended to be a McFarlane/NECA plastic statue, but nor is she quite the cheap, rugged style of figure a pure playability line would go for.

To look at, she's pretty decent - the bland grey uniform isn't really one of the world's most eye-catching designs (let's face it, they may have been evil, but the Nazis sure knew how to dress), but the movie's costume designers, and the figure designers in their wake, have done the best they could. The jodhpurs and rapier scabbard keep the uniform from being completely generic, while the matching boots, belt, wide-wristed gloves, and hair make for a nice contrast. Paintwise there are some minor coverage issue with the belt, around the edges of the holster especially, but overall I have to say I'm quite impressed with the work here. The grey is carefully chosen in both hue and finish, managing a nice soft cloth feel without obscuring any of the sharp sculpted detail, and on the torso the clean application of the gold buttons adds visual interest.

The face is so-so, but at this scale you rarely get striking likenesses. There's enough of Cate Blanchett there to pass muster, though the face as a whole has a generic quality to it, and the bare plastic has that telltale glossy sheen on the skin areas. Her hair is actually dark brown - it's in comparison to the skin and light grey uniform that it matches the gloves and boots - and it's around the hairline that Irina suffers most, with some nasty variation present in the figures I had to choose from when I bought her. The lips are a standard pink, but the slightly high eyes and arched eyebrows achieve a nice sense of aloof disdain.

Being made for play, she's well articulated, even stacking up well to contemporary Star Wars figures. Her neck is a shallow balljoint - there's very little tilt, but it is there - and her arms have balljoints at the shoulders and elbows, with swivels inside the ends of the gloves. They actually are inside the ends of the gloves too, rather than the glove end being flat - it's a small touch, but a good one. Surprisingly, she has two swivel waists, one at the belt, and another beneath the soft plastic "skirt" of her jacket - though the jacket is flat at the front and back, there's enough flex in it to allow the hips to turn a fair way, and the upper swivel joint augments that, so she can turn her waist quite a ways and still look her best. She has peg hips, balljoint knees, and swivel boot tops. The hips are the only disappointment on the figure - without being able to broaden her stance, it's tricky to make her fence properly.

Speaking of fencing, she's got her trademark rapier, a single silver plastic piece with a black grip, and quite a surprising amount of fine detail in the hilt - it's things like that that remind you she's not just made for play value. The scabbard on her belt (actually attached to the jacket skirt, and removable) is solid, so there's no sheathing the sword, but at least the sizes are close enough that it looks like you could. Irina also comes with a black handgun, and in a cute touch, the Soviet star is molded into the grip.

As well as her weapons, she has her designated relic, the titular crystal skull. It comes in a thin cardboard "crate," which is quite serviceable as a scenery piece provided you take care opening it and closing it up again. Aside from being a bit over-sized, the skull looks quite good - there's even a colour change inside it, to give the impression of a glow coming from the brain area.

All in all, any real objections you can level at this figure are just products of the kind of figure she is - for her size, and the display-and-play use she's obviously intended for, she does everything pretty much right. She's not great shakes as a replica, but she's a fine toy.


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