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Jam Pony Max

Dark Angel
by yo go re

Dark Angel was never going to be a big TV success; the brainchild of James Cameron, it had the warm and fuzzy setting of The Terminator and the high-caliber writing of Titanic. Poor Max would never rise above being "Buffy-lite."

In the year 2019 the U.S. has become a third world country in the wake of the Pulse - an electromagnetic shockwave unleashed by nuclear terrorists. This is Max's world, an unforgiving place even for a genetically engineered soldier like her. On the run from her military creators and still searching for the others like her, Max joins forces with the idealistic cyberjournalist "Eyes Only" in his crusade against repression and corruption.

I just don't understand how a premise like that could be anything but a raging success.

Dark Angel did last long enough to get its own toyline, from the inmates of the industry: Art Asylum. Digger and his crew did their all to make the best toys they could, but the show was circling the drain at the same time the figures were hitting shelves; it was just a question of poor timing. One regular Max and one deluxe Max (with her bike) reached shelves, but it seemed that that would be the end of it. Until Diamond distributors stepped up.

When she wasn't fighting the evil forces of Manticore, or struggling to save her fellow mutant brothers and sisters, Max paid her dues delivering Jam Pony packages in the post-apocalyptic landscape of Seattle, Washington.

Getting a "secret identity" figure is always cool, even when it means less black leather and more puffy jackets. The first thing you'll notice is the great packaging design: a cool blocky geometric blister that shows off the figure and her accessories beneath a screened image of Jessica Alba. Manuel Jesus, Kerry Flaherty, Djordje Djokovic and Miguel Heredia really did a great job here, and it's good that they get the credit they deserve.

The figure itself is pretty good, as well. She stands just under 6" tall, and is dressed in street clothes: black padded vest, long-sleeved grey shirt, backwards ballcap, blue bellbottoms (yes, apparently bad fashion will survive into the future) and shiny black boots. She's a repaint of Deluxe Max with a new head, but she still looks cool.

A lot of this figure is covered with Kreaton, a "super space age" rubber. Sadly, this is the same stuff that toy companies have been putting on figures for a few years now; it starts drying and cracking within a few weeks. Max's hat, hair, and everything between the breasts and lower thighs are Kreaton. Oh, and most of her accessories, too.

Art Asylum used all this rubber because they went the hidden articulation route. Guys, McFarlane is the king of hiding articulation, and it sucks when he does it; it's not going to work any better for you. Disturbingly, it also means that Max has a soft, shapely butt. She moves at the ankles, knees, thighs, hips, waist, shoulders, elbows, wrists and neck, though the weird articulation limits her legs a bit.

I can only assume that AA was going for a slightly cartoony look with these figures, because they don't look anything like Jessica Alba (for those who don't remember, she was the cute girl in Idle Hands). Mike Cusanelli's sculpt is good, but he didn't even try to do the photo-realistic thing. And that's not a bad choice, since the designs are still so nice.

Jam Pony Max comes with the same accessories as Season 2 Max (a.k.a. "the standard Max figure"): a squishy black and grey backpack made of Kreaton; a black grappling hook with a real string; interchangeable hands (open or fists); and a toolkit, which is hands-down one of the coolest accessories we've seen in a while.

The toolkit (made from Kreaton, of course) fits in a holster that straps to Max's leg. It's a tri-fold wallet of various lockpicking tools, molded from a single piece of that rubber. The stuff actually holds a nice amount of detail, so each individual tool is visible even without the silver paint bringing it out.

She also comes with one of the plastic coins that Art Asylum includes with all their toys. Hers is white with blue paint, and featues a barcode (just like the one on the back of her neck).

Jam Pony Max is a good figure; she's got a better paint scheme than the original, the coolest accessories, and decent articulation. They'd've been better off if they hadn't tried to hide the articulation, but she still looks good. I just hope the Kreaton holds up.

[2015 update: it's been a dozen years, but the rubber is just as smooth and supple as it was the day the figure was made. Apparently our concerns were unfounded.]

-- 03/16/03

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