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Warrior Isis

Spawn Series 33: The Age of Pharaohs
by Artemis

McFarlane cops a lot of criticism for their "McStatues," but that doesn't mean they're easy to produce. DC Unlimited demonstrated how you can do a McStatue wrong, with the sub-par Valeera Sanguinar. Here, McFarlane shows how you do it right. Exactly right.

Osiris's wife and leader of a clandestine resistance, Isis seeks to defeat the conspirators who betrayed her husband, and bring peace back to the people of Egypt.

McFarlane's backstory for the "Age of Pharaohs" series is pretty much the basic Osiris legend - the most important element of the New Kingdom's religious mythology - with a (slightly) more real-world aesthetic, and of course the insertion of Spawnie.

In the original, Isis took a more direct approach to restoring her husband's throne, by gathering up the pieces of his body that his killer (and brother) Set had scattered about Egypt and resurrecting him. Except for his penis, which had been eaten by a fish in the interim, but Isis substituted a gold phallus she just happened to have lying around, which worked well enough that - in the form of a hawk - she became pregnant with their son, Horus. Some retellings claim that she accomplished this by flying around Orisis's reassembled body, but - regardless of the prudishness of modern scholars - I can personally vouch for the existence of carvings of the reassembled Osiris and his feathery wife getting it on the old-fashioned way. Ancient Egyptian religion was a good deal more lively than the kind you get nowadays.

Isis is the designated Bikini Babe of this 33rd Spawn series, following the tradition that each series of figures must include one heavily-armed exhibitionist. The backstory implies that this is because she assumed the (presumably skimpy) disguise of a slave girl to avoid detection by Set's assassins, hence the not-especially-demure outfit of a loincloth and McFarlane's most minimal bra yet. Not that the real Isis would mind, since she went around topless most of the time anyway - the Egyptian pantheon wasn't shy, as a rule.

Since this is technically an all-ages line Isis has got a skimpy cloth thong (in addition to a very cute bottom) underneath her loincloth - probably not historically accurate - but all in all she's wearing more on her head than the rest of her body put together. Her pose has her slinking forward with feline poise that'd do Catwoman proud, glancing around warily, presumably on some secretive endeavour to give Set grief, and ready to shove her enormous sword through anyone who spots her.

There's no two ways about it, Isis is goddamn gorgeous. For starters, the amount of detail on this figure is incredible. All the fabric on her has a cross-hatched woven pattern, with the individual strips of cloth having their own texture too. The tight thong beneath her loincloth has its own texture, smoother than the cloth, obviously a much finer weave. The straps holding the daggers to her left arm and leg have woven decorations on them, and a second cushioning layer of cloth beneath the main straps to keep them from chafing her limbs.

The soles of her sandals are cross-woven with a denser, thicker texture, while the straps holding them on feature intricate beadwork. Instead of single straps holding her bra together, she's got gold clasps on the cups, attached to straps made of several cords lain side by side, connecting on her back with an ornate metal decoration. Her earrings and the gold decoration on her headdress share a stylised sunburst pattern, and the feathers attached to the headdress are sculpted with a realistic variance in their rigidity, laying across each other and bowing under their weight.

Her shield has a worked wooden texture on its face, and a much rougher texture on the underside, still showing the marks where it was hewn out of a single block. The cords tied around her arms cross over one another, and have slipped slightly from their original neat arrangement as she's moved. Even the textured cloth wrapped around the ankh-shaped hilt of her sword - Isis is almost always depicted carrying an ankh - is woven around the handle such that, at the center of the ankh, the gaps in its weave are reminiscent of the form of the horned cow's head worked into the sword's guard - by the New Kingdom, Isis had assimilated Hathor, and acquired her fertility symbolism of the cow.

What's more impressive - especially since McFarlane has had trouble here before - is that this wealth of detail doesn't overwhelm the figure. At first impression Isis is sleek and simple, and it's only when you inspect her closely that the sheer volume of intricate sculpted detail becomes apparent. Instead of cluttering her visually, all the elements of her sculpt work in harmony with her overall form, giving the impression of a relatively simple, unadorned costume. Nothing gets in the way of her long, smooth limbs and the physical line running up her tight midriff from her outstretched left leg - there's a sense of coiled strength, her body stretched out almost luxuriously, sensuously, but ready to strike like a cobra.

Her face is absolutely exquisite, better than any female figure McFarlane has produced before. She has the fine but strong features that characterised the ancient Egyptians, a melange of North African and Mediterranean, before the mass influx of Arabic peoples changed, so to speak, the face of the country. She's beautiful, but all business - anxious, on what must be a risky endeavour, but with a sense of composure that says she won't panic no matter what surprises crop up. A slight gloss to her dark, earthy lips makes her look sensual without being "made up," and dark, heavy eyebrows reinforce her Egyptian heritage, while the distinctive style of eyeliner mark her culturally. Her hair is cut short, stylish but not decorative, and the sleek uniformity of the sculpted strands, plus the slight gloss of the colour, give the impression of her hair being oiled, as was common in the New Kingdom (or failing that, they'd put a lump of fat on their heads and let it seep down - let's assume Isis is using oil).

The paintwork on her face and head is near flawless; on the rest of her body, it's not quite as good, but the difference is slight. The worst issue is an occasional lack of coverage on sculpted edges, most visible on the cords wrapped around her arms and wrists - in a couple of places, such as the left wrist, the edges of the cord show the flesh-colored plastic. The same is true of the edges of the beadwork on her sandal straps, and very slightly on the edges of the dull metal boss on her shield. Aside from these minor - very minor - issues, Isis's paintwork is exemplary, with very effective uses of color, highlights, delicate washes, and some careful sandy dirtying of the coarser woven cloths, since she's been crawling about the desert all night.

Articulation is next to non-existent, of course. She has swivel biceps and swivel wrists, both by and large useful only to fine-tune the position of her arms in relation to the sword and base once she's attached. There is no way, short of major rebuilding, that you'll ever get Isis into any pose even vaguely dissimilar to the one she arrives in.

So far as accessories go, the shield is the only one that's not really an essential part of the figure - its strap is elastic, and though it fits tightly around her body, if you take some care you can slip it over her head and off her arm without damaging anything. Her sword splits into handle and blade, for insertion into her hand, but her sculpt is such that she can't not have something in her hand - not without looking silly, anyway - so unless you've got something else to give her, the sword stays where it is. And finally there's her base, an outcrop of eroded rock strewn with gold coins, as well as three Canopic jars, featuring the authentically-sculpted heads of Hapy, Duamutef, and Qebehsenuef, three of the four sons of Horus who guard the deceased's organs.

Technically this would be an anachronism, since according to McFarlane's backstory for these figures Horus is still only 8 years old, but I'm inclined to cut them some slack since they at least bothered to look up the proper heads. (Speaking of doing their homework, even the name cartouches on the packaging are correct.) The base also has a little divot on its leading prominence, for the point of the sword to fit into to keep everything set in place. Isis can get by without the base if you like, though her right arm has to be turned about as far as it can plausibly go so as to raise the sword's point far enough to be level with her feet.

These figures have been selling like hotcakes, and no surprise - statue she may be, but Isis is without question McFarlane's most beautiful work ever. Indeed, she's a bona fide work of art, and when you consider that she's also a mass-produced toy, the quality of her is all the more remarkable. I doubt I'll see another one on sale in a shop - she vanished from my regular haunt in the blink of an eye, and it was only by way of a standing order that I even got one - but if I'm lucky enough to find another one, I'm absolutely going to buy her all over again. She's that good.


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