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Berserker the Troll

Spawn Series 22: The Viking Age
by Poe Ghostal

Get ready for an utter mess.

Erik Bloodaxe's right-hand man and most trusted friend, Berserker is, well, a wee tad on the psychotic side. Crazy though he may be, Berserker fights the enemy with such fury and reckless abandon, Bloodaxe years before had decided better to have the Troll as a friend than an enemy. When Berserker stepped onto the battlefield on the Day of Legend, to face the challenge of Jorvak Skullsplitter and his rogue clan, he had no idea his best friend Erik Bloodaxe would be murdered and reborn in the Realm of the Dead.

Berserker the Troll is a man (thing?) of contradictions. For instance, his name: Berserker the Troll. Which is it? Is he a berserker, a troll, or both? Judging from his looks he's a troll, but judging from the reference to "psychotic," he's a berserker as well. Even worse, it appears Berserker is actually his Christian name (though he is undoubtedly pagan and not Christian, what with being from the Dark Ages and a demonic creature and all).

He is from the so-called Dark Ages (the period in Europe approximately between 300-800 AD) yet he carries a crossbow, an innovation that didn't arrive in Europe until the 12th Century AD. So he's a berserker, a troll, and a time traveler. Finally, despite being a berserker, an occupation that would generally entail going crazy and charging into a melee battle with sword, axe or mace drawn, Berserker the Troll prefers to delicately and accurately pick his enemies off from a distance. So ultimately, he's a berserker, a troll, a time traveler, an individualist and a coward.

Finally: what, may I ask, is a troll doing running around on the "good guys" side when he should be eating people and grinding their bones to make his bread? Just ask the Mountain Troll from Harry Potter or that ugly bastard from The Fellowship of the Ring: trolls are supposed to beat up on the good guys.

All right; that's as much fun as I'm going to make of this action figure's "character." Suffice to say, B the T has been cobbled together from myriad generic fantasy sources. In addition to the roles mentioned above, he is arguably an orc, a survivalist, an anthropomorphic lizard and Donald Rumsfeld. [Not that those last two aren't the same thing. --ed.]

I wasn't planning on picking up Berserker, but I was so pleased by the other figures in the the Viking Age line that I decided to give him a try. To my surprise, the hideous freak has burrowed his way into my heart (or maybe torn it out, as he would doubtlessly prefer it phrased). Yes, in an abstract sense he's goofy; but as an action figure, he looks good. Once I got past his ridiculous design, I came to like him a lot. He's unique amongst the other figures in the line. He's the only one to wield a long-range weapon (and doesn't let a thing like the impossibility of its existence get in his way). He's the only one to dare wearing fur, despite the risk of being doused with paint by be-pierced animal activists. Like Paul McCartney, he's also the only one to go barefoot.

But let's get to the real reviewing. The sculpting is, as always with McFarlane Toys, simply incredible. From the pebbly lizard-skin of his armor, to the pebbly lizard-skin of his face, to the little straps holding on the bits of skull on his shoulder pads, Berserker represents the unstoppable progression of high-quality work from McFarlane. The only sculptors in this scale who aren't employees of McFarlane but can match his company's work are the Four Horsemen (former McFarlanites themselves), Art Asylum and Toy Biz's frequent collaborator Phil Ramirez.

The paint job, of course, matches the quality of the sculpting. The colors are suitably gritty and realistic, and applied with a care that puts most other companies' work to shame.

Intriguingly, Berserker also features most expressive face in the whole line. Whereas the humans (or semi-humans) like Bluetooth or Dark Raider have generic "fierce" expressions, Berserker almost seems like he's concentrating on something. Maybe he's aiming his crossbow at a target, or wondering why he has a crossbow at all.

Even more impressive than the sculpting is the articulation. While it would doubtlessly pain Todd McFarlane to admit he was bowing to fan pressure - he'd argue that he did it simply because he wanted to push the envelope, to raise the bar for all his competitors - Series 22 features some of the best articulation ever in a Spawn series. Series 19 (the Samurai Wars) had some good articulation for the scale, but really only two figures (Samurai Spawn and Scorpion Assassin) were free of any pre-posed limbs.

In Series 22, even the female Valkyrie gets balljointed hips, balljointed shoulders and knee joints. Berserker, for his part, gets a balljoint neck, double-balljointed shoulders, balljointed hips (with swiveling motion), swivel-joint elbows and wrists, swivel biceps, peg-joint knees, peg-joint ankles, and the oddest foot articulation: the left foot swivels left to right (fairly uselessly, actually) while the right foot is jointed at the ball of the foot. That's a load of great articulation, and it insures that you can get Berserker into a number of great poses. In fact, there's so much articulation that it detracts a bit from the figure; the joints can make him a bit limber and difficult to stand. The joints are also very well hidden, though the ugly balljoints at the shoulders and hips are the reason for all the shoulder pads and loincloths in this line. Perhaps McFarlane will find a way to get the same level of articulation without such crutches in a future line.

Berserker's accessories including the aforementioned crossbow (with three arrows that can be stored in a quiver on his hip) and the wolf pelt. The cross even has a kind of strap for the bow, but you can't really "load" the crossbow, and it certainly doesn't fire. I'm not too fond of the accessories, and yet he doesn't quite look right without them.

People used to believe "berserker" came from the Old Norse word "baresark," meaning "without armor," and that they'd go into battle wearing nothing but a sword and a smile of insane fury - that's not true. It actually comes from ber (bear) serkr (shirt): basically, they wore coats made from bearskin; suddenly all that fur this guy's wearing makes perfect sense! Additionally, the earliest surviving reference (from the 9th Century skaldic poem Haraldskvaedi) actually calls them "ulfhednar," which means "men clad in wolf skins," so his included pelt works, as well.

While all the other figures in Series 22 have a kind of coherent feel to them - a sense of theme - Berserker the Troll is delightfully bizarre and out-of-step. You can tell just by reading that bio - it's all over the place (shouldn't it be either "a tad" or "a wee bit"? And the commas and clauses are out of control). But I recommend him highly to any fans of fantasy figures or monsters of any sort. Just watch where he points that thing.

-- 09/22/02

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