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Elektra & Ronin

Marvel Legends
by Artemis

Let's be honest, ninjas are just a long-lasting fad - like pirates and zombies, they turned up, got insanely popular, and suddenly every man and his dog was writing a ninja into whatever mass-market crud they were trying to foist on an impressionable public at the time. And - just like pirates and zombies - 98% of ninja portrayals in comics or movies or TV or whatever are utter rubbish, and frankly the only reason they haven't died out yet is that the general public are thoroughly ignorant of what the concept is actually about, and thus can't tell how dumb what they're seeing is.

Leaving his old life behind in the wake of the House of M crisis and the Superhero Civil War, Clint Barton joined his comrades in the underground New Avengers just in time to travel with them to Japan. There, Maya Lopez had been stranded, and subjected to the brutal attentions of the ninja clan known as The Hand, and their leader Elektra. Taking on the new identity of Ronin, Clint dove into battle against the Hand and Elektra. With his fellow Avengers, he defeated the ninjas, and fought Elektra to a standstill, only to discover that she was in reality a Skrull imposter.

Yeah, whatever, tell it to someone who cares. Probably further alienating myself from a bunch of readers who're already spluttering out their coffee and shouting "You don't like ninjas?!?," I actually didn't think the Elektra movie was all that bad. Oh sure, it was no gem, and the fight cinematography was garbage (so sick of quick cutting), but there were some cool characters, the faux-Eastern mysticism was incidental enough not to be annoying, and Jennifer Garner's always worth watching, no matter how silly the costume they stick her in is. So even though, comics-wise, I couldn't give a rat's ass if I never encounter her again, I was a bit perturbed not to have an Elektra action figure in my collection. Et voila, here we are.

Miss Do-rag comes in a two-pack with fellow pretend-ninja Ronin, so let's look at him first. He stands a respectable 6" tall, and is clad from head to toe in black, grey and olive green - at least some people have finally realised that ninja never wear all-black for camouflage (it doesn't work, for one thing), although if he was trying to be stealthy, he's spoiled the effect with gold highlights on his armour. To its credit, the sculpting is quite good on the armour edging's fine detail, and there are only a few patches where the paint slops out of its boundaries. Over this he's got a sleeveless black robe with yellow highlights and a yellow sash, and unfortunately the yellow paint has got some nasty issues: it manages to be both too little and too much, either failing to adequately cover the black plastic beneath, or covering it so enthusiastically that the volume of paint creates obvious slop, and obscures the sculpted details.

Beneath the hood, Ronin is the Clint Barton we all know and love, before he started dressing like a TMNT reject and being emo. Oh, if you didn't know, that's Hawkeye. Yes, the (formerly) dead Avenger. Two swappable heads are provided, one masked, one bare. The masked head tends to look a little titchy on his body, but it's not really out of proportion - between the hood holding his hair tightly down over his scalp, and the robe widening his shoulders, the pinhead effect is mostly just an illusion. The bare face - besides a crazy-looking wandering eye on mine - is a pretty good representation of Barton's face as it's generally drawn, with tousled blond hair and prominent cheekbones, and appropriately for his current New Avengers persona, he looks pretty depressed and humourless. I miss Hawkeye.

Since this is the first male Marvel Legend I've ever laid hands on, I have no idea whether or how much his body is a re-use of an earlier one, but it seems to work pretty well. He's got a balljoint neck, fully mobile for both heads, a rocker torso, and a swivel waist - he does suffer from a hunch, which looks particularly bad with his bare head (plus the robe sitting up over his shoulder blades behind him), so you'll generally have to move the sternum rocker back as far as it'll go to relieve him of his Neanderthal posture. He's got balljointed shoulders above swivel bicep tops, double hinge elbows, and balljointed wrists, with an identical layout on the legs (swapping the appropriate body part names, obviously). The plastic quality isn't the best I've seen - it's soft and sticky, so I'm yet to get the hips moving properly, and (as you might guess from the pictures) by the time I got around to taking photos, I still hadn't managed to get him to give up his grip on his nunchaku.

Speaking of weapons, Ronin fares well there - as well as the stuck nunchuks, he gets a pair of katana. The hilts are thin and narrow, but wide enough to rest a little tightly in the circular holes in his fists - with a little care, they won't wobble around or fall out of his hands much. The 'chuks, as you'd guess, are a tight fit. Both feet have peg holes, if you have a base handy, but he'll stand well enough solo.

But like I said, I didn't buy this set to have a depressed ex-archer. The star of the show is Elektra - although since this set is themed for the Secret Invasion lead-up storyline, she's technically Pagon, one of the new breed of Super Skrulls. But because the Super Duper Skrulls are impossible to detect by any means besides death or Mr. Fantastic's Plot Device, and Elektra's costume hasn't changed in any case, she might as well be either.

Said costume is... well let's not beat about the bush, it's pretty silly. Basically she's sporting a one-shoulder swimsuit, a loincloth, boots, and a variety of straps on her arms and legs. Plus the do-rag, of course. All of the costume elements, besides the free-floating soft plastic loincloth and the feet, are painted on with no sculpted definition, which - were she not two-packed with Ronin - would make Elektra perfect repaint material.

She stands a full 6" tall, and presents a rather elegant figure, lean and athletic without being implausibly thin. Her boots are jika-tabi, with a separate big toe, traditional footwear in Japan during the ninja heyday, and still associated with them. The loincloth is a nice sculpt, especially at the back where it's tied off, with two straps floating around, but it's soft plastic and thus more vulnerable to casting irregularities than hard - I saw one with a pinprick hole in the front of it, which of course had filled with paint and looked dreadful, likely the result of an air bubble.

With her costume being so slanted towards featureless surfaces and sharp borders between colour and skin, paint irregularities show up like nobody's business, and among the five or six figures I had to choose from I saw quite a range of issues. The edges of the straps have a tendency to bleed along the cast lines of the limbs - the left thigh seemed to be the worst offender, but other limbs had the same problem to varying degrees. The paint wash on the loincloth is heavy, creating issues both with excess pooling and excessive reflectivity in what should be shadowed areas. There's a lighter wash across the torso, but that varied quite wildly on the figures I saw, from almost negligible to unsightly - also it seemed to favour the upper torso quite a bit, creating mis-matches with the shade of red on the abdomen. Personally I found the chest/abdomen clashes and wash irregularities annoying enough that I picked the figure with the least paint on her torso - thus the loincloth is noticeably darker than the rest of her outfit, but I can live with that.

She has two heads - swappable, I mean, not Zaphod Beeblebrox style - which neatly eliminated my main point of dissatisfaction with Elektra, that silly rag she wears. The do-ragged head is pretty generic, with simple facial paint apps and a nondescript expression, and two soft plastic straps hanging down the back of her hair. The bare head is very much superior, and not just because of personal preference: her cheekbones are more defined giving a sharper, fiercer face, her eyes are more focused and cold, and her lips are shaped with a bit of a contemptuous pout. Paint plays a major factor in how the sculpt turns out, of course, and like the rest of the body I saw considerable variation on the figures available.

Elektra is a combo of ToyBiz and Hasbro-style articulation. She's got a balljoint neck, which both heads limit somewhat with their hair, mostly necessitating downward gazes if the head is turned, the bare head less since its hair only sits over one shoulder, not both. Then there's balljoint shoulders, elbows, and wrists, Hasbro-style, and a shallow balljoint sternum that actually has quite a useful range to it. There's no waist, so she relies on the sternum for torso twisting - a shame, since the loincloth strap would've hidden it nicely - and balljointed hips, double pin knees, and peg/hinge ankles. All in all she's well mobile, and my only complaint with posing her is that the loincloth is very tight around her hips, and will invariably pop up high around her waist at the slightest motion of the rest of the body.

Elektra wouldn't be Elektra without her sais, and she has a special pair of hands to hold them, with the forefinger extended to fit around the cross-guard - not one of the traditional grips, but Hollywood gets up to an unbelievable amount of non-standard sai-work, usually in the name of doing twirls and stuff rather than using them, and this one's far from the worst example, so it's no big deal. She can hold the sais in either direction, and - correctly - the pointy bit (yoku) is round, not edged. She also has a more standard pair of gripping hands, for use with accessories like swords, or Ronin's nunchaku, if he'd let go of the blasted things - the shaft of the wrist joint slides out of the forearm to switch hands, and is quite snug in place without being overly difficult to remove, so good work there. Unless one of those katana is meant to be hers - Ronin is packaged holding one, and the other isn't in anyone's hand in the box - the sais and swappable body parts are the full measure of her accessory count.

These two-packs aren't cheap, but I'm not especially upset about value on this one. Pairing two ninja characters together means that the accessories make sense for either, so in effect my Elektra figure has five weapons - an above average haul these days - and even though I have no use for Ronin (he's been deposited in the Drawer of Incidental Male Figures as we speak), at least he's a complete figure, not a BAF bit to go on my pile of never-to-be-used large body parts. Each figure has a stand-out irk - Ronin the hunch, Elektra the irregular paint, though choosing carefully at the store can amend that one, at least - but both are strong work otherwise.

-- 10/16/08

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