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Dawn Back in Black

Femme Fatales
by Artemis

This is going to be one of those reviews which I start out by saying "I've never read a damn thing about this character-" See? I just did. I've come across vague mentions of creator Joseph Michael Linsner's mastery of prose and art here and there, but what little I do know of him (various art, and the first issue of Dark Ivory) leads me to take that with a grain of salt, and think Dawn is probably more like the Victoria's Secret catalog to Tarot's Penthouse - basically the same kind of uplifting feminist/new-age-y messages rolled up and formed, papier-mache-like, into the shape of the hottest redhead the artist can imagine, except Dawn keeps her panties on.

The immortal embodiment of both life and resurrection, the woman known as Dawn travels through reality in search of truth and love - often putting her at odds with the darker forces of existence. She has assumed a myriad of appearances and identities over the millennia and yet faithful devotes have recognized her as Aurora, Gaia, Isis, Kali and even Mary - proving Dawn's true beauty is not dependent on her physical form, but instead reflects the faith and life of those around her.

Funny thing about characters whose "true beauty is not dependant on [their] physical form", they never turn up on the cover of the trade paperback aged 40-something and homely-looking. I'm not having a dig at 40-something women, by the way (two words: Mariska Oh God Yes Hargitay... okay that's more than two, but I like to think the middle ones are kind of built into the name, like over-ambitious silent letters), and I don't exclude the aforementioned Witch of the Black Rose (I forgive her, but that's not the same as ignoring it). Dawn may well be the embodiment of all that is female (possibly male as well, the bio text doesn't seem to specify, but if so, they've been taking hormones), across every spectrum of physical appearance, but it shouldn't surprise anyone that the particular form she's turned up in is basically Dominatrix Jessica Rabbit.

Regardless of being ignorant of the character, I do have a vested interest in this statue - Tarot herself is in line to appear in Diamond Select's Femme Fatales series (would have already, I gather, had there not been factory delays of some kind), so this is by way of testing the water to see what to expect when the real deal shows up. Also, yes, it ought to be Femmes Fatales, and since I've been playing The Saboteur I will side with the French on this one and call Diamond wilfully ignorant. She's advertised as a nine-inch figure (yeah, now I wish I hadn't made that shemale joke) following Linsner's own design, as a high quality collectable. So, is she?

Well for a start, she's more nine and a half (god dammit), but the excess is mostly base - if she stood on her own, she'd be bang on the nine mark, give or take a bit of leeway for the big hair. Dawn's not limited to just the one costume, but the statue recreates arguably her best-known look, from her debut on the cover of Cry for Dawn #1 - almost. The difference - and here the statue is at odds with not just the original, but also the art used on the packaging itself, which makes me wonder if it's one of those "It's too sexy, tone it down!" executive orders that annoy me so - is that her hips are a lot more covered. Depending on which cover you go by, she's wearing either separate underwear with a low hip line, or - it's unclear, but possible - they're built into the bustier, which has higher hips. The statue takes the line of the former but the all-in-one design of the latter, revealing much less thigh and lower butt than by rights it should.

Mind you, if the idea was to make Dawnie more palatable to the conservative brigade, they've (thankfully) left most of the work undone. In true pinup style, with the exception of her boots and sleeves (which extend up the backs of her hands to a loop around the base of her forefinger, so I guess that kind of makes them gloves), her clothing - what's left, since that qualification knocks out a good half of it - has that painted-on quality that makes it stick to every curve and crevice of the wearer's body, even when it'd be far less effort to just, for instance, stretch straight from one cheek to the other. The front of the teddy even dips into her navel - on one of the corset bones, too, so you just have to figure it was built that way. No doubt goddesses can make their wardrobe do whatever they damn well please. No real nipple shapes, though - for all her pretentions to sexy, she's still a Barbie at heart.

The paintwork doesn't let the sculpting down. All the solids are glossy black, not remarkable in terms of technique, but the way it reflects light - especially on the creased boots - shows off plenty, and doesn't need anything fancier. The rest consists of her hallmark skull mosaic, laid - with consistent sharp detail - over varying degrees of smoky is-it-see-through-or-not effects. The stocking tops handle their transition from patterned transparency to full black quite well, bringing in the heavy black and fading out the pattern at just the right spot for a seamless effect. On the torso, the effect is less dramatic, with just some body contour shading up her front. A bit out of kilter, though, is the absolute lack of shading on her breasts - granted they're smooth, but so is the material across her stomach, which makes the colour transition look a bit arbitrary. (So that's what that photo is helpfully showing, it's not just a gratuitous boob shot.)

Her face is very pretty, cute even, though certainly not childish. She's got the pouty full-but-not-wide lips that Linsner seems to like (fixate on, take your pick), and a slightly upturned but nevertheless regal-looking nose. Her trademark teardrops are there beneath her left eye, three with the middle one longer, and that eye is looking off to the right, which gives a lot of character to the face - something you don't see enough of in action figures and even high-end collectables. Her Jessica Rabbit hair covers her right eye - also a trademark - but the eye is painted in full beneath it, aimed off to the right the same as her visible eye, so kudos there. I gather from Wikipedia, though, that on the rare occasions she's got her hair out of her face, she sports a single teardrop on the right side - there's no such on the statue.

Now we come to articulation, and of course, there's sod all. There's nothing to speak of in terms of accessories either, although the rose around her right wrist, the chain on her left, and the dagger (with its stab-fasta red stripe) are all separate, and could be removed if you were inclined. The left hand comes with one of those teensy clear elastic bands around the fingers, holding the blade handle still and keeping the end of the chain hooked up over her thumb - nothing falls off if you remove the band, though, and the chain is designed with its final look in mind, with separate loops linking up at multiple points, rather than just being one length wrapped around her forearm which would just sag embarrassingly to her elbow given a nudge or two.

Her base is a point of some confusion for me, I confess. It's identical (give or take prototype-to-production variation) to that shown in the publicity photos, a square of wooden boards, and the paint job picks out the texture without going over the top, so all's well on that score. However, the photos showed Dawnie standing free on the base - virtually guaranteed to be a potential ankle-bending pose over time, with her right foot up on its toe, and the left presumably screwed in for stability. What arrived in my comic shop order box, though (as you'll have noticed by now), was a Dawn firmly fixed to her base by way of a chunky clear plastic mold, with pegs fitted into the toes of both boots (angled to catch the right foot), which essentially makes her and the base a single piece. I wondered if perhaps it were simply a disposable bit to keep her intact during shipping - try as I might, though, I have yet to figure out a way to get her out of it, unless you're supposed to apply a lot more force than I'm willing to. It could well be intended as permanent - while it's not invisible it's far from unreasonably ugly, and it cuts down the likelihood of long-term bending of her ankles quite a bit, if I'm any judge.

"Statue" might as well be another word for "empty your wallet" to an action figure buyer - at least, if said action figures aren't 1:6-scale detail-laden masterworks. Dawnie's fairly reasonably priced, compared to the kinds of statues she'll probably find herself standing alongside in the store until someone takes a shine to her, and thus I feel confident in saying she's value for money. She's hardly the most detailed statue of her size around, or the most lavishly painted, but she's good-looking, colourful without being garish, attractive, and possessed of a bit of individuality. It still doesn't put her into impulse-buy eligibility, but if you're a Dawn fan, or just a collector of varied women for their own sake, she's worth a good look.

-- 9/26/10

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