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Black Canary

DCD Justice League International
by Artemis

I'm a big fan of Black Canary, as regular readers would have guessed - but it's mainly to do with her costume. This figure, then, isn't on as firm a footing with me as it may have hoped.

Black Canary - With her proficiency in hand-to-hand combat and her glass-shattering Canary Cry, Dinah Lance is a force to be reckoned with.

I haven't read Justice League International - now that it's available in trade paperbacks it's on my to-do list, but so are more important things like "save money" and "make Shadow Weaver costume." But I have read Justice League Europe, JLI's transatlantic cousin, so I've got a rough idea of the writing style and conventions of the time, and I've got an idea that this incarnation of Black Canary may even have appeared now and then in crossover issues. If so, though, I didn't really notice her - and you can see why.

Like Zatanna, Dinah Lance's fishnet-happy wardrobe is one of the classic costumes of modern comics, so of course eventually some idiot decided it was "silly" and needed changing. What they came up with was this late-80s nightmare of two-tone tights blossoming into a loose top with sleeves bunched into the gloves, an oversized neck, and a vaguely wing-shaped chestplate that looks like it was made out of cardboard. Oh, and a headband - can't forget the headband. I'd ask what on Earth they were on, but it was 1987, so the answer is obviously cocaine.

Still, you make the best of what you're given, so having decided to do some figures of JLI, DC Direct set themselves the task of making them not suck. It's nice that they set themselves that task, but it would've been nicer had they succeeded a bit more. Dinah's blue bodysuit is cast in that metallic-look pearly plastic DC Direct has been using on figures like Mary Marvel and Diana Prince - it's quite dark, for one thing, almost blending with the black unless you've got a strong light on her, and for another it doesn't match her sleeves and collar, which are plain matte blue. Worse, comicbook colouring back in the Bwa-Ha-Ha Justice League era (I'm not making that up, that's what it's called) was a far cry from the computer-shaded work you see nowadays, so the metallic look is just plain wrong for this figure. It also makes the manufacturer's mark on the back of her thigh stand out a mile.

Based on the art samples on the packaging, JLI Dinah had more of a square face than the Dinah we're used to these days, and in light of that the facial sculpt is pretty decent - she's attractive, in a generic kind of way. Barring the hair colour I fancy she looks a bit like Brigitte Nielsen in Red Sonja, so there's another '80s link for her. Her hair is very soft plastic, to allow the neck joint to move, but the paint does quite a good job of bringing out the detail of the necessarily shallow sculpt.

That neck joint is the usual ball/socket arrangement, and as I say you'll be surprised at the range of motion available to it - not that it's huge, but the hair is sculpted very close to her shoulders, in front and behind, and normally that'd be as good as supergluing the neck in place. Possibly flush with this accomplishment DC Direct have gotten all ambitious with the rest of Dinah's articulation, and to the usual complement of swivel/pin shoulders, pin elbows, peg hips and pin knees, they've added swivels at the glove and boot tops as well. Party time. Unfortunately they missed the waist, where the flat belt is just begging to be a swivel, and they managed to put the knee joints a little bit too far down, making her legs look weird if they're bent at all.

Accessories consist solely of the JLI series's generic base, a clear plastic oval with a single peg (right foot) and the Justice League International logo molded into it. It'll do the job of keeping her upright, given a reasonable pose, but it's not an especially pretty base, so I'm rather glad that Dinah can get by without it.

The old JLI/JLE era has a fairish cult following, so this line as a whole is definitely within that range DC Direct covers in between endless new versions of Superman and Batman: stuff that'll sell well enough through the comic shops to hardcore fans, but that just wouldn't make it otherwise. Even so, I doubt many people were really jonesing for this version of Black Canary, and it's as if DC Direct sensed that, and didn't really bother exerting themselves as a result. There are some positive points to this figure, but the mis-matched metallic plastic just can't be ignored - it shunts the figure as a whole from "one for the cult fans only" down to "not really good enough for anyone."

-- 03/13/09

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