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Image 10th Anniversary
by yo go re

It's been a decade since some of Marvel Comics' hottest young stars decided to take their show on the road, so to speak, breaking away from the comfort of the industry's biggest publisher to form their own independently released imprint, Image Comics.

They had big dreams, but almost zero practical experience. Comics shipped late (or never at all), personalities clashed, creators came and went. Amazingly, though, Image is still around, and has grown into a fairly respectable publisher.

To celebrate a decade together, Todd McFarlane created the Image 10th Anniversary line, featuring one character from each of the Image founders who are still around. Sadly, the figures don't live up to the hype.

While the previously reviewed Spawn figure is a wonderful example of what McToys can do if they set their minds to it, the rest of the line falls well short of the mark. None of the other three even make an effort to recreate their creators' artwork, and they're all barely articulated. Yes, they're all sculpted and painted beautifully, but... well, keep reading.

The only figure I bought other than Spawn was Shadowhawk. He was always one of Image's coolest characters. Rather than simply hand crooks over to the lax legal system, he broke their spines, sentencing them to life confinement even if their lawyers found a loophole. The conceit of the story was that the reader didn't know who Shadowhawk was when he took off the suit. This mystery played out over the course of several interconnected miniseries, and was pretty well handled.

The creation of Jim Valentino (now Image Comics' head honcho), Shadowhawk had great expressive yet atmospheric art. The least stylistic of all the Image founders, Valentino kept his story grounded.

Todd has given us a Shadowhawk figure before, way back in Spawn Series 4. Heavily armed and covered in straps and buckles, that one bore only a passing resemblance to 'hawk. The figure was okay, but was in desperate need of an update.

The new Shadowhawk stands 5½" tall, which may seem small until you consider his wide-spread stance. Gone is all the extraneous technology that marred the original figure, leaving the barehanded fighter that he was always supposed to be. Well, almost barehanded.

Shadowhawk had two main weapons: for long-range attacks, a shuriken shaped like his hawk symbol; to break the spine, however, he had ball bearing style brass knuckles and short metal claws on each finger. The original 'hawk had a removable shuriken strapped to his thigh, though he couldn't hold it. The Anniversary 'hawk has the knuckles, but no claws or blade.

The sculpting on the figure is wonderful, and the paint job compliments it nicely. The dark parts of Shadowhawk's costume are detailed with tiny wrinkles and ridges while the silver bits are smooth and painted to resemble brushed metal. His eyes are the right shade of red, and the cloth has a blue wash over the black that achieves just the kind of highlighting that ToyBiz tried for (and failed) with their Venom figure. His belt looks like leather, brass and mesh, and floats freely around his waist. All very nice.

When you look at the figure, though, it doesn't look quite right. The style of the figure is more Mark Texiera than Jim Valentino, and his helmet is the wrong shape. Perhaps the biggest fault of all is the almost utter lack of movement.

I suppose that McToys met their articulation quotient for the year with Spawn 10, because the rest of the line are little more than statues. I really believe that most McToys' joints are simply to facilitate getting the figure out of the mold. Heaven help the toy fans if they ever find a way to do it without separate pieces.

Shadowhawk moves only at the Big Five (plus waist), but not even all that is useful. His stance means that his feet only connect the ground in one pose, so those joints might as well be absent. His waist is good enough, I suppose, and it's hidden by his belt. His shoulders are both balljointed, but the inexplicable absence of movement at the wrists or elbows means that unless he's in his prescribed position, he looks more like a cheerleader than a vigilante.

The head is easily the weakest point. Even the malformed helmet could have been overlooked with some creative posing, but Todd made sure we couldn't do that. A simple peg joint means his head only rotates on one axis, forbidding him from looking up or down. The pose finds his chin buried in his shoulder, so it looks like he's trying to gnaw his way out of his armor. Poor coordination of the joints means that you can't make him look where his fist is pointing unless you want him to play "rock, paper, scissors."

Shadowhawk does come with a nice base, which is the main reason I chose him and not Savage Dragon or Ripclaw to review. A hero of the city, Shadowhawk stands on a finely detailed rooftop, looking for his prey below. The roof is slanted, slightly, for dynamic poses, and makes even the old Shadowhawk figure look good when standing upon it. The base measures 4" x 6½".

Shadowhawk could have been much better than he is. The design is off, the pose is wonky, and the playability is non-existent. I got him because I like the character and because of the nice base, though no one else should be paying $12 for just the rooftop. What's saddest is that what should have been a fine celebratory offering, the Image 10th Anniversary line, became such a big step backwards for McFarlane Toys.

Or maybe that's how Todd wanted it: "the 10th Anniversary of Spawn (plus three other guys)."

-- 02/22/03

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