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Sin City
by Monkey Boy

I have to say I'm probably one of the only action figure/comicbook fans who still hasn't read Frank Miller's Sin City graphic novels. I've flipped through them, read bits and pieces, but I don't own them and I haven't read them cover to cover. Nevertheless, that doesn't make me any less excited for Robert Rodriguez's big screen version of Miller's tales, since I'm a huge fan of Rodriguez's work as well as Miller's, and I'm also impressed with the sheer amount of big name actors and actresses that appear in the film.

NECA snagged the license to produce figures for the movie, and unlike their Pirates of the Caribbean figures, these toys have actually been released more or less in time with the theatrical release of the film they're based on. The first series has six different characters, but five are available in either black and white or colored variants, and although the Yellow Bastard is always yella, he's available in a smiling or serious-faced version. On top of that, Nancy Callahan is available with either a straight-haired or windswept head sculpt, and both sculpts are available in either color or black and white. The variants seem to be pretty evenly packed, so collectors will be able to choose whether they want their Sin City cast to have some vibrant hues or retain the tone of a noir film. There's also a ToyFare exclusive cut-faced version of Marv that lacks the facial bandages of the standard versions, bringing the total number of figures in Series 1 to 15, variants and all. This review tackles Marv, one of the more iconic characters of the series.

There's nothing crazy about Marv, no matter what anybody says. He's sane as hell. He was just born in the wrong goddamn century. He belongs on some ancient battlefield, swinging an ax into somebody's face. But here he is, here and now. And whoever killed the woman of his dreams is going to pay. In blood. And Marv's likely to take his own sweet time making the bastard pay.

Now, I usually don't comment on the packaging of figures, but I would like to mention how cool it is that NECA has included a picture of the source material rather than just photos of the action figure. There's a picture of Mickey Rourke as Marv on the cardback, and even though it's heavily stylized to appear "drawn", it's nice to have something to compare the figure's likeness to. Too many companies these days are afraid to include the source material on the packaging of their licensed products. It's also nice to see NECA's spelling and grammar have improved since the horrible cardbacks of the PotC figures (Tartooga? "Tartooga?!" Yeesh).

Now to the figure itself. Marv looks great; his sculpt is fantastic. NECA has shown that its lackluster Kill Bill figures were the exception, not the rule, and they continue to impress with this line. Marv's bandaged face is particularly great. His sullen, determined expression is captured perfectly, as is the ugly likeness of Mickey Rourke, boxing injuries and prosthetics and all. His clothing has all the appropriate wrinkles and folds, and looks great with one minor exception - it's a nitpicky thing, but his soft rubber jacket is a separate piece, and the holes that his arms poke through are a tad too big, allowing you to see some of his white shirt between the sleeve and shoulder of his jacket. Also, his left hand is sculpted into a fist, meaning he can only hold one accessory at a time. Overall though, the sculpt is top notch with very few complaints.

Paint is one area where NECA can sometimes fall short, but in this case everything comes together fairly well. I opted for the black and white Marv, and while that effect can be tricky to pull off in plastic, NECA has succeeded for the most part. The only complaint is that Marv's head is a little darker than the skin of his neck and chest, which looks a little odd. [To be honest, though, he looked that way in the movie, too --ed.] The application is done well though, with a moderate wash and no slop or bleed to speak of.

Articulation may disappoint some, but if you're familiar with NECA you should know what to expect. He's got balljoints at the head and shoulders, and pegs at the elbows, wrists, waist and shins. The balljointed head and shoulders offer some decent posing options, but the joints in his legs are just ugly. They're located right at the point in his pants where the wrinkles and folds are most prominent, so any repositioning of those joints results in some nasty breaks in the sculpt.

Strangely, Marv is one the largest figures in the series, but he also comes with the most accessories. This is where the sculpted fist is somewhat problematic, since he can't hold anything in his left hand. Marv comes with his gun "Gladys", a small hatchet, a hacksaw, and a gas can... all the tools he needs to get his revenge on those who murdered his precious Goldie. He can hold them all well in his right hand except for the hatchet, which is just too thin for his wide grip. They all look nice, although the hacksaw seems a bit fragile due to its thin blade.

Undoubtedly, this figure will be endlessly compared to the Marv offerings that NECA's chief competitor, McFarlane Toys, released several years ago, even though McF based their figures on the graphic novel and NECA's represent the film. In the past, NECA has been accused of remaking figures from properties already touched on by McFarlane and not doing anything new with the license (e.g. Freddy, Jason, Halloween, The Crow, etc.). Now, thanks to Robert Rodriguez's extremely faithful take on Frank Miller's work, NECA is able to make figures that are entirely "new" while at the same time adding more fuel to the endless McFarlane vs. NECA debate. Will wonders never cease?

-- 04/11/05

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