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Barb Wire

Triad Toys
by Artemis

We're in a good spot for comicbook films at the moment (even if I do wish the music in the Green Lantern trailer had a bit more oomph), but it's worth remembering that in days of yore, nine out of ten times the movie industry got hold of something from the 22-page funnybooks, they'd do things to it that'd make Jason Voorhees look like a compassionate social worker. But even among the pile of topless teen comicbooks with Hollywood's machete stuck through them, it's difficult to think of one worse abused than Barb Wire.

Steel Harbor is an urban wasteland. Bounty hunter Barb Wire stalks the shuttered neighborhoods in search of the broken city's most wanted. They are a powerful and dangerous bunch, but Barb Wire is the best tracker in the business. No super-gangster is too tough - as long as there's a fat price on his, her or its head. Beautiful and dangerous, Barb Wire puts the "drop dead" into "drop dead gorgeous". Her boots may be for walking, but they kick butt real pretty too.

It's not that the movie was especially dreadful - it bloody well was, but that's not what I'm getting at - but that virtually nobody had heard of Barb Wire, but everyone had heard of Pamela Anderson, whose breasts were hired to portray the titular character. So a movie that should have shuffled off quietly to the back of the video store rental shelf became a household joke, yet nobody making fun of it had any idea that it bore almost no relation to its source. At least when someone makes a bad Spider-Man movie, the general public is still aware that that bad movie isn't the totality of Spider-Man's existence. Not that Barb Wire the comic is any great shakes, but it didn't deserve that.

Being an enterprising bunch, Triad Toys have been snapping up licenses to supplement their original property toys, since nothing sells like a known quantity, but of course Marvel and DC would much rather offer their fans anorexic crapheaps and poorly-tailored ripoffs in the 1:6 scale market than anything decent, so smaller companies have to take what they can get. Dark Horse evidently likes the look of Triad's work, and so here we are with a 1:6 Barb Wire (Barbara Kopetski, if you're curious), based more or less on Barb Wire: Ace of Spades, a four-issue miniseries released in 1996. That's after the movie, so Barb's earlier face and magenta ensemble had been replaced by Pammy's peroxide likeness and an elaboration on the movie's all-black costume.

Said costume comprises thigh-high boots (with built-in feet attaching to the doll at the ankle, rather than trying to fit over separate feet), fishnet tights (rowr as always), a leather Black Canary kind of deal (the cleavagey one, not the one with the high neck) that only barely covers her breasts, a collar, gloves, and the option of either lace-up sleeves, or a heavy leather jacket with tassels. As usual with lace-ups at scale (both the sleeves and the front of the bustier), the ends of the laces wind up being way too long, since otherwise it would be impossible to tie them without the use of an electron microscope and nanites - it's something you become accustomed to (the laces, not the nanites). A more noteworthy issue is her bustier, specifically the lack of any shoulder straps - aesthetically pleasing, but in practical terms it means there's essentially nothing holding the cups to her breasts, so any use of the sternum joint will bring about a wardrobe malfunction. If the Alpha body used here had the Otaku's accuracy (i.e. nipples) you could call that an action feature rather than a problem, but it doesn't.

Then there's the jacket - I have a love/hate thing with her jacket. In tailoring and materials, it's outstanding work - aside from the predictably oversized (relatively) zipper, it's like they just got a real jacket and shrunk it, lining and all. The problem is that all that work, especially the layers, simply makes it too bulky. Closed around Barb's body, it makes her torso all but featureless, which when you're wrapped around a rack like that is quite an achievement. Left open the thickness doesn't draw attention to itself so much, and if you have her upper arms holding the sides of the jacket back a bit you can it looking pretty flawless - it's just something that needs careful handling, and won't work in every possible pose. While we're on costume issues, the tights finish at the ankle to allow the use of bootfeet, so it's not unusual for them to slide up the legs a bit and bunch at the upper thighs, above the boot tops.

Her face is very Triad - regardless of being individual sculpts, all the female faces I've seen beyond the initial Otaku 1.0s have had a shared look, sleek and intense. This face has nothing to do with the comic era it's based on, when Ace of Spades was copying Pamela's face following the film - it's more like the original Barb Wire issues, but Triad's fine detail compared to '90s comic art (plus the absence of the sunglasses she often wore in those early comics) makes it more a resemblance than a likeness. On her own merits, she certainly fits the bill of a beautiful bounty hunter: there's no denying she's gorgeous, but her expression has a "cold killer" quality to it (although Barb, in fact, avoided killing wherever possible). Her eyes in particular, narrow and lidded, are attractive and about as gentle as a beartrap. Like most Triad ladies her hair is rooted Saran rather than sculpted - collectors into styling will have their ways of handling it, but compared to other Triad dolls I have I've found Barb's mane a bit unruly of its own accord.

Triad's Alpha body is designed for more flexibility than the Otakus I've reviewed previously. The Alpha sacrifices the superb skin-look material of the Otaku (and its semi-realistic naked anatomy), but in its place boosts the articulation count significantly. Tallying it up as best I can without stripping her naked: balljoint neck, swivel/pin shoulders, elbows and wrists, balljoint sternum and waist, swivel/pin hips, knees and ankles. For what it's worth, Alpha is also designed to be easy on customisers, with joints purpose-built to safely separate at various points to allow limb-swapping without undue effort. Although no swappable body parts (aside from gloves) are provided, the Alpha range also includes various sizes of bust - befitting a '90s bad girl comic character, Barb has the largest.

The doll comes with the usual ample range of accessories, starting with the standard three sets of hands: open, pistol-grip, and closed fists, all three being black gloves. Then there's a belt with an attachable cloth holster, a handgun with a movable slide (and what claims to be a removable clip, but on mine it's jammed in too tight to budge), and a pair of metal handcuffs with working catches to open and close them. The big gun of the accessory set, aptly enough, is an AK47, on which the sights, ammo clip, and underslung grenade launcher are all removable and interchangeable with other bits from Triad's ATAC modular gun range. And finally there's a big belt of rifle ammo, 48 metal shells in a rubber belt. Naturally (Triad loves its insanely tiny shells) each bullet is removable; in my case, one was missing, but no matter, I just moved one from the end of the belt to the missing spot, and it's no longer obvious. The end of the belt fits snugly into the hollow left by the AK47's clip, if you fancy your rifles belt-fed. No base is provided, but Barb's boots have magnetic soles, giving her excellent stability on any metal plate you care to scrounge up for her.

Overall, Barb Wire is a steal - the quality of the doll body, head, outfit and accessories are all either equal to or significantly above what other companies would provide for a comparable price. And when the biggest problem to be found is that the jacket is bulky - because it's too well made - well, anyone who collects female 1:6 scale figures would have to consider this one pretty carefully simply on its technical merits. For Barb's fans, it's Christmas.

-- 12/11/10

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