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New 52 Orion

DC Direct
by yo go re

A lot of the complaining about DC's "New 52" reboot seems to have died down: either everybody read the comics and realized they were (mostly) better now than they used to be, or all the grumps got tired of complaining to no one but each other. Neither of those things seems very likely.

The son of Darkseid and the champion of New Genesis, the New God Orion rockets out of the pages of Wonder Woman astride his Astro-Harness!

Wow, that really reads a lot more like marketing speak than information about the character, doesn't it? Like, if toys still had commercials on TV, that's what the announcer would bellow as some child actor swooped the figure through one of those stacks of tiny cardboard boxes that no kid actually had access to. All the text is true, but it more what you'd expect to see in the Previews listing, not on the final packaging. He really did first show up in Wonder Woman, which makes a sort of sense, since that book is centered so much on the actions of the Greek pantheon. Old gods, meet your replacement! Also, she might be the only character who could keep him in line.

Orion was created in 1971, and this is easily the best he's ever looked. His new outfit was designed by Cliff Chiang, who started with something much closer to the classic look, but at DC's insistence kept pushing until he got to this point, where Orion looks like a cool space biker, all cocky and aggressive. He's wearing a red leather jacket and black pants, plus red gloves and black leather boots. There are bits on his jacket that, in the comics, are just graphic elements (ie, things that are drawn on), but for this toy are fully sculpted: for instance, the stylish black lines that run from his collar to the circles on his shoulders, and from there down to the bands around the wrists. He has additional bands around his knuckles, which look a little bit like padding and call to mind MMA gloves, suggesting that the character is not afraid to throw down. The three thin lines down the center of his chest are etched in, and they're matched by similar lines on his sides and the insides of his arms. It's all very impressive work by Jonathan Matthews.

Orion's new helmet looks quite a bit like the original - it's silver, leaves his mouth exposed, has pointy "ears" on the sides, and a red emblem in the center of the forehead. It does look more like what a biker would wear than an ancient warrior, but that just fits the style of the update. It's even got a hinged visor, which can be lifted up to reveal Orion's face - well, the false, pretty face he shows most people, not his true, Apokoliptan visage. Kind of a shame, really. Interchangeable heads would have been awesome (that's what the original 2001 DCD figure did).

The Astro-Harness has also been completely redesigned from the ground up. It's still a thing that he stands/squats on to fly around, but rather than being crazy Kirby-tech, it looks like a zeerust interpretation of an Italian motorcycle. The "harness" parts are all thin silver tubes, except for the stirrups, which are broad, ridged panels for traction (and each has two rings underneath, as though for upward propulsion). The central body is smooth yellow plastic with the hint of an engine and a gas cap underneath. There's more yellow on the handle bars, as well as a big clunky gun on the left side. The "headlight" area is a sunken circle filled with Kirby dots, tying the entire thing back into its own roots. Great design!

The "arms" and "legs" of the Astro-Harness can swivel, so it will fold up nicely when Orion isn't riding it. The man himself has a balljointed neck, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, hinged elbows, swivel wrists, a waist, T-crotch, swivel thighs, hinged knees, and swivel boots, all in addition to the hinged visor mentioned previously. It's tough to get the Astro-Harness's handlebars into Orion's rather stiff hands, but once you do, he looks great riding it. There are pegs on the pedals to secure his feet, as well.

Jack Kirby had the idea for the New Gods while he was still working at Marvel - he put the Norse pantheon through Ragnarok in a Thor backup story, and had a new race of gods grow to take their place. He wanted to turn this idea into a real book, but held it back until he could work out a deal where he'd get a share of the profits. Before that could happen, he'd gone to DC, and took the idea with him. New Gods #1 opened with a battle that looked suspsiciously like Ragnarok, and in Forever People #5, someone exploring the home of the "old" gods found a very distinctive winged helmet in the rubble. Add in the fact that the New Gods' Boom Tubes have always transported them to and from a different dimension, and it turns out DC has been publishing a Marvel comic for decades! Orion may not have been desperately in need of a redesign, but this one - and the toy based on it - turned out far better than anyone expected!

-- 09/18/14

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