The toy industry can be a very difficult business to get into these days. The glory days of the late nineties when it seemed
like every property under the sun had a toy line and there seemed to be new start up companies popping up each month are long
since gone. So when one of the few remaining independent toy companies gets a new line to market, it is bound to attract some
attention. And in the case of the subject of this review, whose line has had such a rocky history that it is almost legendary,
the release of Shocker Toys' Indie Spotlight figures is going to hold a lot of interest for action figure collectors if only
to see if the final product can live up to the hype and prove to be worth the wait.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should state up front that I did not buy this figure. Shocker Toys has sent out review samples to a number of web sites. And I was fortunate enough to be include on that list. I probably would have tried to pick up at least one of the figures in the line anyway for all of the reasons I just mentioned. But far be it from me to turn down free toys.
Packaging - 7/10The packaging for the Indie Spotlight line is a completely collector friendly blister card design. The figure and accessories are held to the card back by a plastic blister that wraps around the edge of the sides and bottom of the card. It is held in place with just two small pieces of clear tape. The figure is package in a fairly bland pose with its accessories around it and an insert on the bottom provides identifies the character. The card itself doesn't have much for graphics on the front beyond the line and series names and logos. There is a small image of the Maxx in the background and that is about it. The back of the card is pretty standard stuff as well. There are images of all five figures in the series on the bottom half. The top has a paragraph promoting the feature of the line in general and talking up its potential expansion in the future. There is also a small character card with the general background for the character. And with a series like this where the character are pretty obscure, even by comic book geek standards, that was an absolute must. I just wish they had expanded it such as at least listing what comic the character came from. A little recognition for their creators beyond the legal small print at the bottom would have been a good idea as well.
Sculpting - 7/10As a sample of what to expect from the Indie Spotlight line, Kabuki is both a good choice and at the same time, a less than ideal choice. The character is not nearly as complex in design as some which means that the figure doesn't offer much opportunity for the sculpt to excel. However, as an example of a basic female body, it does give you a pretty good idea of what to expect in the line. There is some sculpted detail for the costume, both for the boots and the arm wrappings. And it turned out well in general. But they did cut corners and didn't sculpt the wrappings near the elbow joints which causes some issues for the paint. The figure's face seems to be a bit too small as well. But I believe that was done on purpose so that the mask could be made in the proper scale and still fit. But what is going to be of the greatest interest to most collectors is going to be the articulation and how it is integrated into the sculpt. What they actually did was to design the upper arms and legs to extend up in an effort to partially conceal the ball joints in those locations. The results are hit or miss for the hips. In some positions, the additions do cover enough of the joints to maintain a more realistic female shape. But when they are not in one of those positions, they just stick out and end up looking worse. They are less of an improvement for the arms. The extensions don't really do anything but move the gap that would exist with a normal joint design up around the ball joint. The joint is no less noticeable In fact, since it is wider than it would have had to have been if it was just under the ball joint, it actually sticks out a bit more.
Paint - 8/10The paint work on Kabuki is not terribly complex, but turned out fairly well. The lines on the costume are clean and straight. The wrappings on the arms are very well done on the lower arms. The problem comes when you get near the elbows where the wrappings are not sculpted, the paint gets quite a bit sloppier. The figure does have one major highlight, the dragon tattoo on her back. It is not a standard paint application. Which is a very good thing. Because the tattoo stretches across six different body parts and still looks pretty good. That would have been all but impossible to get this level of detail and have it turn out as well with regular paint applications.
Articulation - 7/10Kabuki has roughly twenty seven points of articulation:
Accessories - 5/10Kabuki comes with three accessories. The first and most important is her mask which is removable. I'm impressed at how well the mask turned out. It not only looks good, it fits quite well too. But my practical side can't help but thinking that the removable mask increases the risk of the mask eventually getting lost and also requires the regular face to be made too small so that the mask can fit. Interchangeable heads would have accomplished the same thing as the removable mask with less risk of future problems. Kabuki's second accessory is a second set of hands, a pair of closed fists without her weapons. The fists are nice. But The fact that the weapons cannot be removed from her default set of hands was a disappointment. Having them sculpted together with the hands severely limits the potential poses that they figure can pull off. The final accessory that comes with Kabuki is a female Isz from the Maxx comics. I like the idea that each figure in the series comes with at least one Isz so that people who collect all of the figures. But for those that only buy their favorite character or characters from the series and may not have any interest in the Maxx, an Isz adds little to a Kabuki figure.
Value - 3/10This is where the Indie Spotlight line is going to take its biggest hit. The going rate for these figures seems to be somewhere between $13 and $15 each. If you are a fan of a particular character that happens to be included in the line, that is a small price to pay for what is likely be your only chance to get a 3D representation of one of these characters, other than Maxx who actually did have a figure in the Spawn line years ago. But if you judge their value just based on their qualities as a figure, a $15 price tag is a bit pricey. Hopefully the price will drop a bit when they start to ship out in greater numbers.
Happy Hunting:The first series of the Indie Spotlight line is shipping in limited numbers now. They are available from many online toy retailers. I have always had a fond spot for Big Bad Toy Store, but they are already sold out of the two most popular character, Maxx and Scud unless you buy the entire series with the two variants and there are cheaper alternatives out there if you are willing to do a little searching. Alternatively, Shocker Toys does have a web store. But even they do not have the figures listed as being in stock. They claim that they will have them by June. But given the company's track record with meeting deadlines, you would probably be better off paying an extra buck or two per figure to buy from a site you can trust.