DC's acquisition of the World of Warcraft rights was big news for them, and no wonder - WoW has around eight million subscribers, whereas an A-list comic these days is considered very healthy if it's netting a hundred thousand readers per month. Publishing a World of Warcraft comic and watching the dollars roll in isn't an unreasonable goal for DC, and to help matters along, they've had their specialty action figure branch DC Direct - operating under the "DC Unlimited" mark - turn out some toys as an added lure.
The Blood Elves are a faction
of the remnants of the High Elves who survived the destruction of Quel'Thalas by The Scourge. They style themselves as Blood Elves in remembrance of their slaughtered brethren. [...] The Blood Elves are not necessarily evil, though they may seem hateful, reckless, and arrogant. Much like the Forsaken, they are a race that has endured many accumulated tragedies in recent times and are trying, if by desperate measures, to find their place in the order of things once more. Their unorthodox practices, however, have earned them several enemies and many more critics.
That's according to the almigty Wikipedia, anyway - I've never played WoW myself (old PC - I still use Windows 98, believe it or not) so I don't know a Blood Elf from a Keebler Elf, let alone who Valeera Sanguinar is, and aside from the existence of a "Lord Sanguinar" in the game - presumably some relation - no one else seems to know, either; one assumes she'll feature in the upcoming comic, where her characterization will be "young, hot and bitter." Awesome. What I do know is that Valeera is 6" of scarlet-clad warrior fury, and that's good enough for me.
Right out of the box, she's a big figure - 5½" to the top of her head, but when you consider the very wide stance she's in, and the fact that she's visibly slender,
she really is bigger than you'd expect from seeing her photo; I'd hazard a guess that she'd stand a full seven inches if she were upright. There's elaborate detail all over her, from her enormously pointed ears to her similarly pointy boots, but there's a sense of exaggeration and stylisation to her design, especially her armour and the way her hair and cape are flying about - she's no Lord of the Rings-style "real fantasy" lady, she's a video game gal through and through. Still, the fine detail of the outfit sculpt includes plenty in the way of fabric, straps, buckles, stitching and so on that show that sculptor Jean St. John consciously went the stylisation route to match the imagery of the game, rather than just not knowing any better.
So all is good in terms of pure sculpted quality, but I must say, the overall design of the figure leaves something to be desired. For starters, Valeera is looking downward at a very severe 45° angle, so severe that she looks rather bizarre if she's placed flat on a shelf; it's as if she's glaring intently at the ground. One assumes she's intended to be on vertical terrain of some sort... mountainous rocks, perhaps... and is fighting someone lower down than she is, but unless you position her right on the edge of a shelf (preferably a high shelf, so you're looking upwards at her and can actually see her face) you're not going to capture that look.
Then there's her cape,
which is whirling around between her legs - very dynamic, but it's going in the opposite direction to her hair, which suggests either different bits of her body are moving in dramatically different ways, or she's encountering a very selective gale-force wind. On top of that the cape is attached at her shoulders, but simply drops straight down her back until it reaches her waist, when it starts billowing around - it just doesn't look natural. On the fine detail front, there's two thin ribbon-like strands attached to her... well, let's call it her "waist" [admit it: they're stuck to her crotch. --ed], which are both flying around her hips in entirely different directions too. All the sense of motion in the figure's pose is lost simply because the flowing elements, the hair and cape and ribbons, don't agree on how she's moving.
The paint job doesn't help. The good news is that DC Unlimited didn't skimp on paint applications - her armour is crimson with a very deep red wash, a look I personally like for a figure like this that isn't trying for photo-realism, there's clear differentiation between the leather areas of armour,
which are given a matte finish, and the glossy gauntlets, greaves and shoulders which I can only assume are meant to be some kind of metal (again, fantasy), and the clothing beneath the armour is a separate, darker shade as well. There's find gold detailing on her breastplate and shoulder plates, green gems here and there, and a highlight to bring out the detail in her hair. The blade and guard of her sword are cast in clear gold plastic, and painted to mesh with the gold-painted hilt in her hand, with both having more green gems. Her skin is a healthy, clear tone - very game-like, so far as I'm any judge - and for a little touch of realism, she's got a few thin red lines across her hips and thighs, where she's been scratched or grazed in a fight.
It's a well-planned approach to painting Valeera, but the execution lets it down. The heavy wash on the 'metal' armour leaves areas where the wash has darkened not just the recesses, but the flats of the sculpt as well, including some of the characteristic black blotches you get when you go nuts with an ink wash. And that's the good news - as I said, I like the wash, and I'm prepared to take the shortcomings with the benefit. The skin colour is fairly clean, but heavily applied, leading to sloppy concentrations of paint in crevices like her cleavage and the detail of her ears. The hair is appalling - a blonde highlight over a brown base, which can work well (as in, for instance, Rocky IV's Ludmilla Drago), but the highlight was done far too quickly and with far too much paint on the brush, leading to slop everywhere. The green gems are completely flat, without even an attempt at shading, or a reflective spot - they just look like painted plastic. And to add a final bit of insult to injury, there's a rather obvious paint-over spot on my Valeera's leg, where some slop from the dark red of the fabric was fixed very amateurishly without properly matching the skin colour.
I almost forgot to mention articulation, but that's appropriate, as DC Unlimited almost forgot to include any. Valeera has swivel biceps and swivel wrists, and so far as I can see that's it. Some articulation, even the limited variety favoured by DC Direct, could have taken the edge off the disappointment, but Val has nothing to offer in that regard. She has no accessories either - the sword is stuck in her hand, and her feet are glued into the bases, although that does offer the slightly unique attraction of her left foot being at an angle, rather than flat to the ground, without losing stability.
In the end, Valeera is a disappointing figure - DC Unlimited have tried to make a McFarlane "plastic statue," but the thing with McStatues is that, immobile as they are, they're excellently designed, sculpted, and painted. Valeera is sculpted well, designed somewhat haphazardly, and painted poorly - let's hope DC can offer a better comic than action figure for their newfound WoW market.
On the bright side, if you're an ear fetishist, this is the figure for you.