Last year at San Diego Comic Con, Square-Enix's exclusives were a pair of red and blue Noble Sixes. This year, it's a slightly more appropriate duo for a comic convention: Batman and the Joker, except they've lost all their color! Taking a page perhaps from DC Collectibles' very cool Black and White Batman statue line, we now have Black and White Batman and Joker from Batman: Arkham Asylum in poseable form. The only question is: are these grayscale variants any different than the first Play Arts Kai Joker and Batman?
Well ... no, but as we didn't review the originals, hit the jump to see what they're all about!
You want boxes? You got boxes ... bright ... colorful ... boxes. Boxes identical to the regular release but with a sticker on the front. I feel like Square-Enix missed a big opportunity here to do something cool and, I don't know, make the boxes black and white? That really would have made them stand out instead of some tiny sticker.
Batman gets the same treatment. My above point remains the same as well, but now, let's move on to the figures, shall we?
First out of the box is the Clown Prince of Crime. If he looks familiar, he should: this is the same sculpt (and likely the same mold) used for the original Play Arts Kai Joker. What was great about that figure was Square-Enix seemed to base his look directly off the in-game models from Arkham Asylum, so that carries over to the SDCC exclusive as well. Though there are visible gaps at the shoulders thanks to the joints, he looks proportionally correct compared to the source material.
First up, the face. Without the color, Joker's face and hair lose a bit of their punch, but the sculptwork looks as good as it did on the regular figure, thankfully. Everything from the big chin to that trademark sinister smile are here and all are detailed wonderfully. Complaints will likely focus on an old friend: the shading on Joker's face looks a little too much here, just like on Kratos. It looks like he stuck his face in a chimney.
Again, like on the face, the color's been sucked out of Joker's purple and green costume in exchange for blacks, whites and grays. They chose a few hues of gray (see the flower for an example of lighter and darker grays), which works alright in the few places they get used. There's not much airbrushed on shading to speak of, though, which works out fine in Joker's case.
What the grayscale palette really does is let you get a good look at some of the details and appreciate how it looks. It also does make the locations of the joints pop up a bit more, too, especially on the knees where that patch is split in two.
Joker's poseability is the same as it was in the original figure, which is to say he has a rather large range of motion. I did have a problem with his shoulder joints popping out of place from time to time, but they didn't seem to get too loose and always popped right back in place. The wrist joints do suffer a tiny bit from being under those big cuffs, though, as they limit inward- and outward-facing movement. In general, getting Joker to pose how you want him is not an issue ...
Except there's no stand. Again. Still waiting on that Play Arts Kai stand release to the public, Square-Enix.
Of course, what's Joker without a gigantic, oversized gun? One of Joker's two accessories (outside of his extra hands) is his big ol' pistol.
Another shot of the gun, just to show off some of the detail, which looks good. The entire metal part of the gun has this polished metallic look to it, despite it being your usual PVC piece, with the handle a nice, non-reflective flatb lack. You can also see some of the positioning of how the gun fits inside the special right hand that lets Joker hold it. Fits snugly and isn't even a pain to get into the hand properly.
The other accessory is a set of wind-up Joker teeth. Some of the black paint on the teeth is a little spotty in places, but by and large, it looks alright. You can also see Joker's left hand provides a good resting spot for the Joker teeth, though I don't think Square-Enix intended it as such; or did they?
The only other thing left to mention from an accessory standpoint is Joker's alternate left hand, which is a fist. That way, you can do something like the pose you see above. Successful Joker is successful, I guess?
As for Batman? Like Joker, same mold and sculpt, different coloring. There's another cape accessory I did not shoot with Batman because it was affixed to the inside of the box and these two had to go back to Square-Enix, but it's basically just a more "active" look for the cape, as if Batman was in motion. Again, like Joker, everything is proportionally correct compared to the source material, and that means this Batman does look a bit bulkier around the forearms and thighs ... but at least we're not talking Rob Liefeld territory here.
You may also notice that the cape has some texturing and creasing to it, but I don't quite like how it bends there on the left side. I mean, I understand they were trying to get it to wrap around Batman, but to me, it looks a little bit abrupt, like something should be forcing the cape out with an indentation like that. Yet nothing's under there. It's just odd.
As you might be able to tell (and as I mentioned before), Square-Enix has appeared to base the sculpts off the in-game models from Arkham Asylum, and yes, they still do remind me of how both Batman and the Joker look in the game. Batman has the same facial wrinkles, the same cowl and the same steely gaze out at the world, ready to fight crime where ever it is.
What's not as nice? The mouth area isn't as clean as it is on Joker.
Further down the figure, Batman's armor has been rendered with the same detailing we saw on Joker. You can also see how they've sculpted it to give plenty of definition to Batman's muscles while giving it that lightweight armor texture. The airbrushed shading also looks better on Batman than it does on Joker, and because Batman's outfit is usually in hues of gray and/or black, you lose less in this version of the figure than you do with the purple, green and orange Joker. You'll also probably notice that Batman's bulk hides his joints a bit more than the thinner Joker.
The problem is his cape hinders his range of motion a bit. Namely, the shoulders only seem to go out about this far without me having to try and pry them out from under the semi-rigid parts of the cape over his shoulders. Don't get me wrong: you can still do quite a bit with Batman, but that cape of his just tends to get in the way.
For example, you can definitely pose him like this, ready to throw his Batarang at an unsuspecting perp. The cape does rest on the floor because the added weight makes Batman lean back a bit, but he does stay upright in any case. You can also see the alternate right hand, in which the Batarang fits comfortably.
From behind, you can get a glimpse at some more detail on the armor and the Batarang. It is legitimately pointy at each end, so don't go putting it near your eyes or anything like that. Some of the paint work here looks nice to give the edge that sharpened look.
Batman's other holdable accessory is his grappling gun. The paint on here is actually pretty clean and it's intricately detailed. My only complaint is I really couldn't think of another pose to put Batman in with the grappling gun besides something like this. At least it looks nice!
So how do the two compare in the end? Well, Joker probably has the advantage of being the better of the two, if only because he's a bit more poseable due to not having that big cape there. If you're satisfied with the original Batman and Joker Play Arts Kai, then there's really no reason to pick these up unless you're a huge Batman or Joker fan. They're essentially the same thing. Likewise, if you didn't like the original for a reason that wasn't color-related, nothing these two will have will change your mind.
Uh-oh. Looks like Joker might have a nasty surprise in store for Batman.
Then again, maybe not.
Even when he's getting choked out by a giant man dressed in an armored Batsuit, Joker can find the time to smile. That's ... odd.
So today's lesson? Don't mess with the Batman. Ever.
[Thanks to Square-Enix for providing both figures for this review!]
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