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John Stewart

DCD Blackest Night
by Rustin Parr

2009 Was not only the year of Blackest Night, it was the year of John Stewart! Mattel released a figure of him in DC Universe Series 11 and DC Direct has followed suit with a new version of the tried and true hero in the second series of their Blackest Night toy line.

Currently the only Green Lantern permanently assigned to protect Earth, John Stewart has established himself as a prominent force in the Corps. His superior will, focused through the orderly mind of an architect, in unmatched.

I've never really "gotten" John or why so many people seem to like him. I was always aware of him as "the black Green Lantern," but before JLU I hadn't spent much time with him. To me, he seems to follow the same curse of all Green Lanterns as laid out by the first and best of them, Hal Jordan: Green Lanterns don't really have depth, or substantive characters, they're basically just one-note personalities; archetypes at best. For a character to really work, to be fulfilling, I need multiple layers, pathos. That's why Batman and Spider-Man work so well: their unsolvable complexity. The only thing that complex here is why DC Direct has made so many John Stewart figures!

Seriously... this is the fourth version they've released (not counting the Pocket Hero and Minimate). There was one released in 1998 as part of their Green Lantern Corps series which even had a variant in the Cosmic Odysessy uniform, then we had a new John in 2005's JLA Box Set, 2008 brought us a third in the Alex Ross Justice line, and now, finally 2009 brought the Blackest Night iteration. Sure, four over a decade isn't massive, but look it this way: they're only done two Guy Gardners, two Tomar Res and one Kilowog. Heck, Blackest Night will bring only their third Kyle Rayner [fourth counting the McGuiness style one --ed.], and that guy changes his costume/role almost annually! But there is at least one decided advantage: this is the first time John gets a body not borrowed from a previous figure! (Or, at least, it doesn't reuse any figure I have or can easily locate).

Like most (if not all) DCD product, the sculpting looks great. The head in particular has a great "nice but stern" expression and the body features pretty good musculature with a few minor/subtle wrinkles for the uniform. Outside of the gauntlets the entire costume is just painted on, but the metallic green helps it stand out. Looking at the edges of some of the green something interesting is noticed: apparently the way they do this metallic paint is by first putting down a base coat of reflective silver and then going over that with a translucent green to give the color - who knew! He also has slightly darker and more reflective lips and his eyes get four separate paint applications: the whites, black upper lid and iris outline, brown iris and green off-center glint - pretty impressive!

The articulation is slightly better than standard for the line, featuring a balljointed head, balljointed shoulders, hinged elbows, swivel wrists, peg-socket hips (T-Crotch), hinged knees and swivel calves (cut at the top of the boot) for a grand total of 13 points. But much like the Hal Jordan figures at SDCC '09, the torso sculpt has a very slight twist to it which all the articulation in the world can't save.

I imagine it gets boring for designers and sculptors to keep redoing generic poses, so this mild contrapposto may just be a way to break up the monotony, but in reality, it's just a huge thorn in (at least) my side. It just makes finding a natural pose very difficult, especially without ankle articulation, because there is always something "just off" about the figure.

They try to make up for it by including the standard Green Lantern logo base and even a Green Lantern to charge his aching ring.

This is only one of many John Stewarts in my collection and honestly, he's probably my favorite. The head sculpt has a pretty iconic look to it, though that's not really the face I associate with Stewart. I also like how dark his skin is. It was a little surprising at first, especially compared to the other figures, but on display it really stands out and differentiates him. However, the weird torso pose (which is followed through to the left thigh) just makes him look weird to me. His value comes down entirely to you're tastes as a collector. If you're like and obsessed you'll probably get it irregardless, if you're more the kind of person yo describes in his review of Kryb and just looking for a single, pan-manufacturer GL collection then just stick with the DCU John Stewart. Both figures have their pluses and minuses, but I'd bet the Mattel one would better suit your needs.

-- 04/17/10

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