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Pirate Spawn II

Spawn Series 34: Spawn Classics
by yo go re

Ever since Neil Gaiman's Medieval Spawn showed up in the first series of Spawn figures, fans have been asking for certain alternate takes on their favorite Hellspawn. A perennial favorite? Pirate! Yes, even before Johnny Depp made swashbucklers popular again, Spawn fans have been clamoring for an undead buckaneer of their own. That particular treasure was first dug out of the sand for Series 21, and the idea has been resurrected for Series 34: Spawn Classics.

Like Monkey Boy said in his review of Classics Poacher, this line is all about reliving past glories. The promo material even says the line "re-imagines four of the most popular Spawn characters, reinvented in entirely new sculpts." Of course, it also says "Todd returned to some of Spawn's greatest hits and gave them new life," so now not only are the sculptors uncredited, apparently they don't exist at all. If you go by the ad-speak, these things just congeal from the aether, formed by the power of positive thinking. Yeah, classy. You're not Santa, Todd, and your toys aren't made by nameless gnomes.

Anyway, Pirate Spawn. The original was one of the last Spawn figures to feature any kind of acceptable articulation (discounting, of course, the excellent Viking Age line). Well, mainly in the legs - the arms were fairly pre-posed, but the legs were awash with swivel joints. That's something, right? The figure was actually pretty cool, a shirtless zombie with a pegleg that he could prop up on the included barrel, swappable hook hands, and an assortment of guns and swords so expansive, McToys had to release two variant versions of him with different gear.

The original Pirate Spawn was decent, but let's be clear: he wasn't as ragingly popular as Poacher or, say, Mandarin Spawn, so the reason Pirate Spawn II made it into Series 34 is because Pirates of the Caribbean was such a huge hit. There's no shame in that. What there is shame in, however, is halfassing the updated version.

Pirate Spawn's new design is quite good. While the last one looked like an average crewmember, this one's made captain, as evidenced by his tricorn hat and his red longcoat. The coat has a black lining, and golden trim; is this the form his cape takes, as it was on Gunslinger Spawn? Maybe. He has black boots, navy blue pants and a dirty white shirt, all covering the necrotic blue flesh. Say what you will about this figure, at least he's colorful.

And just in case he didn't cut an imposing enough figure, Pirate Spawn is apparently hideously ugly - even moreso than your average Spawn. He's got his scalp and jaw all wrapped up in a red bandana (another candidate for his cape, like Desert Spawn), but it's not like he's afraid of getting sunburn or anything, right? Maybe he just keeps himself covered so his crew can keep their meals down - or for a sudden, unexpected psychological advantage when he whips the wrap off in battle. You know, like Blackbeard putting lit fuses in his beard before boarding.

The figure stands 6½" tall, so he's only marginally shorter than the previous Pirate Spawn. Yes, I wish he were larger, but at least this figure doesn't have the same problem with plastic dwarfism that Poacher did. And while most of the sculpt is excellent, there are a few surprising bad spots - for instance, the lapels of his coat still look like clay, rather than cloth, and the same can be said for large portions of his pants. Sculptural errors on a McFarlane Toy? That ain't right. Overall, he looks more like a Highwayman than a pirate.

It's really quite disappointing that this figure doesn't have articulation. Yeah, yeah, I know: silly me, still holding out hope for joints after all this time. What can I say? I want McToys to be a better company, so I don't relax my standards. Funny enough, Series 17 was the point where they started getting really lazy about articulation, and here we are in Series 34, which means I've been citing the same problem for exactly half of the line's history. The thing is, Pirate Spawn seems to have borrowed his pose from NECA's Admiral Norrington, which means we've already seen just how good the articulation could have been, which makes the final product even more disappointing. Todd's version moves at the wrists, shoulders, neck, waist and boots, but face it: these aren't joints, these are just joins. He has one pose only.

Pirate Spawn's hat is removable, and though he's packaged (on a blister card, not a clamshell, thank the maker!) holding his gun, it can be pried from his cold, dead hand. The sword's pommel comes off to make getting it in his clutches easier, as well. He has two more guns in the large belt hanging over his shoulder, but don't count on being able to remove them: Todd obviously didn't expect you to, which is why the backs aren't painted. The prototype shown off at Toy Fair originally had a third pistol loop between the other two, but it (and its included gun) have been dropped for the final release. The pistols are definitely separate pieces, they're just meant to stay in the sash forever.

And that points to a deeper problem with the figure, a failing of the basic design. Pirate Spawn is obviously meant to have his pistol in his right hand, and his sword in his left. Fair enough, it's a logical pose. Unfortunately, both pistols are designed to be drawn with the left hand, while the leather scabbard on his left hip (a solid, non-functioning piece - yet another large failure on McToys' part) means the sword is meant to be drawn with the right hand. Which says that in the middle of battle, Spawn drew both his cutlass and his flintlock, then took the time to switch hands before aiming. Yeah, no. This is a fairly obvious mistake, and should have been caught during the design process. Of course, that would have required someone at McFarlane Toys to think of their product as a real, moving character, not just as a final piece, and we all know no one in the building is capable of conceiving of articulation.

Since we didn't get this figure for free, we're under no obligation to tell you that Pirate Spawn is a good toy. I bought him because I liked his look, but that doesn't mean we recommend him at all. The pose is fine, but marred by problems of logic; the sculpt is good, but not quite up to the usual McFarlane standard; the accessories are decent, but half of them are inaccessible; and the paint is colorful, but obvious shortcuts have been taken. If you're interested in Pirate Spawn, don't worry about some huge let-down - just don't expect any pleasant surprises hiding in that blister card. You get exactly what you see, nothing more.

2008 was the year McFarlane cancelled all their original properties, and if their showing at Toy Fair 2009 is any indication, the Spawn line may have reached its end, as well. In that case, you may want to get Classics Pirate Spawn just for historical significance: the final Spawn figure in a 14-year line from McFarlane Toys.

-- 02/18/09

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