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Ajani Goldmane

Magic the Gathering
by yo go re

In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight. Except he doesn't, because A) lions are nocturnal, so most of their waking hours are at night, and 2) lions don't live in the jungle, they live on the savannah. Solomon Linda lied to us!

Ajani Goldmane is a planeswalker who wields white magic. His specialty is magic of the purification of body and soul: spells that heal and strengthen his allies, and spells that evoke the inner, spiritual essence of others.

Ajani Goldmane is torn between his leonin ferocity and his sense of justice. He was born as an outcast within his own family, an albino leonin never accepted by the rest of his pride. The only person who cared about him was his brother Jazal, the leader of their pride and Ajani's inspiration. Ajani had always shown potential as a mage and healer, but had assumed his main calling was to be a warrior in Jazal's service. The day that Ajani's brother was assassinated by unknown forces was the day that Ajani's planeswalker spark ignited, and everything changed.

No longer could Ajani worry about his tiny problems of social acceptance. His quest to discover his brother's killer has led him into a tangle of intrigue woven by mysterious forces, forcing him to broaden his skills as a warrior and to unlock new potential within himself. Ajani teeters on the edge between principled justice and bloody revenge as everything he once knew crumbles around him.

That was Ajani's first bio - believe it or not, Magic the Gathering has an ongoing plot, which each new expansion representing another chapter. So Ajani started out as a healer (white magic), eventually went all Dark Phoenix and picked up some red magic, but after facing down Nicol Bolas, the ultimate big bad, he calmed down some and became a mentor to younger heroes. But all I need to know about him is he's albino Lion-O.

Well, really, he's more like Papo's Fantasy Mutant lion than Lion-O: he's got a full lion head sitting on his shoulders, not a human head with cat-like coloring. He has a long mane falling down his back, with a few braids on his temples. He only has one eye - his left is missing, and there's a thin red scar down that side of his face.

While Chandra was wearing more clothes than expected, Ajani is in full-on "half-naked barbarian" mode. As you'd expect from a beast man, he's barefoot (the better to show off the inhuman feet), but he does have some thin leather straps wrapped around his ankles, and sculpted with some small animal teeth knotted in them. There's a bracelet of bones below his right knee, and large, diamond-shaped pads of armor on his thighs with sunburst patterns sculpted in. He has a thick leather belt with a ragged loincloth, and above that is a thin belt with tassles and a single small pouch. His chest is bare, save for the two thick straps running diagonally across it and holding on his ornate golden shoulder armor. He wears a short, bluish-green cape draped over his right shoulder (though there is still a full pauldron underneath), matching the color of his loincloth and the strips of cloth tied around the large leather bracers on his wrists. He has leather bindings on his hands, and a necklace laying against his chest. The sculpt is very good.

What's not so good is the paint - specifically, the fur. The figure's body is white. Plain white. Plain, unshaded white. Remember how we always complain about shading on the white areas of people's costumes? This figure makes the argument in favor of them. With no kind of coloring on his fur, all the sculpted detailing becomes invisible.

By contrast, look at the prototype images Funko showed off to solicit this line: in addition to losing the cape (thus allowing us to see more of the body), Ajani's fur is given a comprehensive wash to accentuate the work the sculptors did. Maybe the wash on the proto was a little heavy, but he was still clearly a white lion - they could have toned it down a little, without leaving him blank as they did.

The articulation is of the same high quality we've come to expect from Funko. Sorry, make that "high quantity." He has a balljointed head and torso, swivel/hinge shoulders, hinged elbows, balljointed wrists and hips, swivel thighs, hinged knees, hinged ankles, and balljointed toes. The tail has a hinge where it meets the body, and possibly a swivel as well, but it's hard to tell because it's so soft and flexible. There's not much point.

We say quantity rather tham quality, because while this specific Ajani Goldmane we're reviewing today has no problems, Funko's articulated action figures still have a reputation for broken and sheared joints. Our advice in this case remains the same as usual: open the figure as soon as you get it, and play roughly with the joints; if something is going to break, better it happens while your receipt is still valid, and you can get a replacement/refund.

We do get some nice accessories, though, beginning with his trademark double-headed axe. The dark blade is his original weapon - the golden one originally belonged to his brother. After Jazal was killed, Ajani retrieved his axe from the funeral pyre, and attached it to his own as a tribute. Thanks to the sculpted fur tied to the shaft, we can tell that the silver blade goes on top, and the golden one on the bottom. Though it doesn't look like it, his left hand is molded just wide enough to hold the axe. He's also got a scimitar that can fit in his right hand or in the scabbard on his left hip, though neither is very easy to accomplish: the hilt is so thin in comparison to the blade that it feels very flexible, the only way to get it into his hand is to pry the fingers open, and the scabbard flops around on his hip so much that it seems like the glue is going to give way. So definitely be careful with that.

Chandra Nalaar was a really good figure, but Ajani Goldmane does not meet that same standard. He doesn't have enough paint, one of his accessories is hard to use, and his floppy tail can't really be posed at all. Much as it pains us to say this skip this figure for now, and see if Funko releases a better one down the line.

-- 11/01/14

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