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Nite Owl

by Monkey Boy

There's a story about why the OAFE review of the last "Club Black Freighter" figure, Silk Spectre, was late, and also not written by me. It's an annoying, stupid story and it's not resolved yet, so we'll just move on. The latest in Mattel's subscription-based line of figures from the Watchmen graphic novel is here, so let's all celebrate that, instead of dwelling on my poor Silk Spectre, floating somewhere out there in limbo.

Actually, of the six figures in the initial subscription, Silk Spectre was my least anticipated. I still want the whole set, so I'm not happy I don't currently have her, but I wasn't particularly looking forward to reviewing her either. To be honest, the follow-up figure, Nite Owl, was also not very high on my excitement list. After a decidedly mediocre Dr. Manhattan and an (by all accounts) adequate-but-boring Silk Spectre, my overall enthusiasm for this line was quickly waning.

And then I got my Nite Owl. My desire to own this figure fell somewhere in mid-spectrum, between those I was really excited to see finally get made (Rorschach, Comedian) and those I couldn't really muster up any excitement for (Silk Spectre, Silk Spectre, and Silk Spectre). Now that I have him in my hand, will he exceed my not-so-high expectations? Let's see.

Clever. Honorable. Introspective. Awkward, shy, and unnaturally obsessed with masked vigilantes and ornithology, Dan Drieberg was a surprisingly good fit to inherit the mantle of Nite Owl. He is a talented engineer with a tragic childhood that feeds his needs to help the helpless and fight the good fight. However, the world is not a perfect place and Dan is forced to constantly question his own morality.

If Dr. Manhattan was the most superhero-like character in Watchmen when it came to actual powers, Dan was the closest we got to a character with a typical code of superhero ethics. He's not staunchly black and white like Rorschach, or detached from humanity like Dr. Manhattan, or batpoop criminally insane like the Comedian, or... a big pile of nothing, like Silk Spectre. An extremely intelligent man, but not an egomaniac like Ozymandias. He believed in helping people and doing the right thing (which is not an easy path to walk in the Watchmen universe). Dan is a good man, but is Mattel's Nite Owl a good figure?

The first thing you notice is that, like Rorschach, Nite Owl gets a lot of uniquely sculpted pieces, mixed with bits we're all too familiar with. His head is new, and mostly does a good job of capturing his look. He's got the goggles, and the pointy owl ears, but something seems a bit off. I think it's the flap that hangs down from his cowl's ears; it should be wider and more flared out. It's not a huge deal, and he's still very recognizable as Nite Owl, but it's not quite up to what it should be.

He's got a cape that drapes over most of his upper body and covers him from behind all the way down to his calves. It's a very simple, nearly featureless design, but that matches the source material pretty well. Obviously it restricts his movement, but more on that a little later. Under that cape, he's got a new torso sculpt to show that Dan has been out of the crimefighting game for a while. He's got pecs, but they're not bulging, and the material is sculpted to be sagging a bit between the muscles. His stomach is totally flat and featureless; a far cry from the sculpted abs we're used to seeing with Mattel's DC figures.

His arms are re-used from the standard Mattel body, which means they're quite muscly, but they're almost entirely hidden by the cape so it's not noticeable. The legs are a different story. Underneath the newly sculpted utility belt with its moon-shaped buckle, we've got some pretty solid gams. Dan's legs were never flabby or anything in the comic, but they weren't as supremely muscled as these standard body legs, either. It would have been nice to get some smoother thighs, especially considering the price point, but it's not a deal breaker.

The figure is painted or molded largely in gray and brown, matching the comic model quite well. There's gold on his belt and goggles, black for the lenses, tan for his face, and some more black for the pointed line motif on his cowl and cape. Like Manhattan, there's a subtle wash on his body, which isn't immediately noticeable but accents the figure nicely. The paint is very clean, with no slop to speak of. The tops of his boots and gloves are painted, not sculpted, but it works and matches the "skin tight" look of them in the comics. Like the rest of the figure's paint, the divisions are crisp and sharp.

His crotchpiece (for lack of a better term) is a bit odd. The crotch itself is molded in brown, but the legs are entirely gray except for the boots. On Manhattan, we had some paint on the legs that (not entirely successfully) carried the "underpants" look onto the legs, but here the division is determined by the cuts of the articulation. In the graphic novel, Dan's brown underoos are cut kind of like running shorts, split up the sides rather than having a lot of fabric connecting front and back, and I'm assuming this is what the figure is trying to emulate. It's not ideal, but I can see what they were going for.

As touched on before, Dan's upper body articulation is limited. His head should be a balljoint, but he can only just slightly look up, and he can't look down at all. His arms have the normal DCUC articulation, but it's largely hindered by the cape. The elbows, wrists, and even biceps can offer you some posing variety, but the shoulders are pretty useless. Below the waist, he moves unhindered in the exact same manner as countless Matty figures before him. The waist on mine is immovably stuck, but I'm not sure if it's meant to be that way or if it's just mine. I haven't put him in the freezer yet, but it's really stuck, to the point where it feels like the torso and crotch are a single solid piece, so I'm not too keen to chance it.

Accessories have been pretty shabby so far in this line. All the figures get the same base with a yellow circle (that evokes the iconic smiley face button without actually stepping on any copyrights) divided by the word WATCHMEN in big yellow letters. With Silk and Doc, that's all we got. We're not counting the oversized trading card that every figure gets, because accessories are something a figure can use; everything else is a pack-in. Rorschach got his grappling gun, but it was comically oversized. Dan fares a lot better than the others: he gets a silver grappling gun, properly scaled, and three little gold moon-arangs. They can barely remember to include batarangs with Batman figures, but Matty gives this guy three moon-arangs*. Hey, I'm not complaining. Although I'm sure it'll be fun to tear apart the couch when they get lost in the cracks (spoiler alert - already happened).

I'm actually pleasantly surprised by Nite Owl. The prototypes shown at the various cons and toy fairs didn't really do him justice, and after having him in-hand I find I enjoy him much more than I imagined I would (that...sounded weird). He's about on the level of Rorschach, once you strip away the "OMG WATCHMEN COMIC FIGURES!!!" hype that figure came saddled with: above average, not great, a few minor flaws, but certainly not as bland and spartan as Dr. Manhattan. My excitement for this line has been pretty steadily declining since the initial pleasure of Rorschach wore off (again, that sounded weird), but I credit Nite Owl with rekindling my interest, even if it was only a little bit.

*I don't know if moon-arang is the actual term, but that's what I'm calling them.

-- 08/07/13

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