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Azrael Batman

DC Universe Classics
by yo go re

Sometimes you can make a mistake, and still have it come out very well.

Jean Paul Valley was trained from birth to become the assassin-enforcer Azrael. While investigating his father's murder, he crossed paths with Batman and learned a better way to fight evil. When Bruce Wayne's spine was broken by Bane, Azrael stepped into the role of Batman; however, Az-Bat grew increasingly violent, forcing Wayne to battle back from his paralyzing injury and take down the frightening vigilante.

We've certainly mentioned it before, but the entire storyline of Azrael becoming Batman was a reaction to the "Image-ification" of comics, with characters becoming more violent and given "extreeeme!!!" makeovers. DC decided they'd make an ugly, angry Batman that everyone would hate, to remind the world why Batman doesn't need to be reinvented.

You already know that Azrael's original costume was designed by Joe Quesada, but did you know he designed all Azrael's costumes? The original, the final, and everything in between. For this suit, writer Denny O'Neil wanted an outrageously over-the-top, near-impossible Batman war machine costume, and this definitely fits that mandate.

The dominating feature is clearly the "cape," which is actually six curved metal blades with hooks at the top that refer back to the strips of cloth on his original Azrael costume. Like that suit, there's an armored bowl around the ribs, and a triangular piece that runs down the abdomen. He's wearing complex gauntlets with spiked knuckles, and there's chainmail visible at the elbows below the metal sleeves covering his upper arms. The head is armored as well, more of a helmet than a mask, and he has a high collar surrounding his neck, with a golden square right over the throat - it's a spotlight he uses to blind criminals. The cape-blades get slightly warped from being in the tray, but not terribly so - certainly not as bad as some of ToyBiz's Wolverines. The only real oddity in the sculpt are the angled spikes coming off his gloves: they're sculpted facing the wrong direction; they should point up instead of down.

So that's just the sculpt - there's another mistake on this figure, and it has to do with the paint. In that the figure is painted the entirely wrong color. See, Azrael wore several different bat-suits during his time under the cowl, culminating in one that displayed its Order of St. Dumas heritage proudly. It's that design that this figure represents, but that costume wasn't blue - it was red. The blue suit had a different cape, different gloves, a different mask, a different bat symbol and a strap of pouches around his thigh. DC Direct made a figure of that costume in 2006, but this is a better toy, if less accurate.

Part of being a better toy is articulation, and this is one of the best DCUC figures Mattel has ever released. He has hinged ankles, double-hinged knees, swivel thighs, H-hips, swivel waist, hinged torso, swivel wrists, swivel-hinge elbows(!!!), swivel/hinge shoulders, and a balljointed neck. The armor on the shoulders is soft enough that the head retains its full range of motion - the up-and-down motion is quite good - but come on, the most amazing thing is that Mattel's finally using Hasbro-style elbows! And double-hinged knees! The ammo-feeder belts that run into his gloves are soft pvc, so they flex and turn as you move the arms, too! Why, if Mattel can do cool stuff like this, do they keep falling back on three-year-old bodies that were sub-par when they were introduced?

AzBats comes with the right leg of the Series 16 BAF, Bane. If you got the left leg with Jonah Hex, you know what to expect here. We didn't intend for the first and last DCUC16 figures we reviewed to include the legs, it just worked out that way. The leg is just as articulated as you'd expect, but has an extra surprise swivel at the top of the boot. That should prove useful!

With either the wrong sculpt or the wrong paint, this Knightfall-based Batman is not a perfect toy - but he's so damn good as a toy, it's really easy to overlook that. You can either paint him red yourself, or wait to see if an official repaint is coming, or hell, just leave him blue. It's not like he looks "wrong," you know? This is a great action figure, he'll be a ToY contender this year, and a quibble about paint isn't enough to keep you from buying this one.

-- 07/20/11

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