Monday, October 24, 2011

REVIEW: Marvel Universe's Darkhawk

Produced by Hasbro | Released September 2011

As a teenage boy, Chris Powell discovered an amulet that transferred his consciousness into the armored body of DARKHAWK. Granted enhanced strength, flight and powerful energy blasts, Chris devoted his new abilities to the fight against evil. Though he is not invulnerable, any damage he suffers as DARKHAWK is easily repaired in the transition back to his human form.

Confession time: I have no idea who Darkhawk is. I thought I was pretty clued-up on most members of the Marvel Universe but the character of Darkhawk is new to me. This is one thing I like about the Marvel Universe line, the fact that they're willing to include more obscure or less well-known characters in the roster. But in this case I have to admit I'm drawing a bit of a blank as far as Darkhawk is concerned but hopefully that unfamiliarity won't impact the Review too harshly.

It's also worth noting that there are two versions of Darkhawk, a modern and classic. Comparing images from the comic I'm really not sure what the differences are or whether this figure is the classic or updated costume. If anybody knows, feel free to let me know.

Darkhawk uses the standard Hasbro/Marvel Universe single carded packaging, although the blister packaging is somewhat deeper than most, as the figure's wings are pre-attached and require an additional amount of space.

Like former Marvel Universe artist Olivier Coipel, Simone Bianchi's artwork is much more agreeable when he's not drawing human faces and - as Darkhawk's features are hidden behind a full-face visor - there's nothing to object to here. Interestingly, the photo of Darkhawk used on the pack's rear has been reversed - his talon/claw hand has switched sides from the figure.

Sculpt And Design
When it comes to creating figures, Hasbro will often re-use parts from earlier releases as a way to cut-down on production costs. Darkhawk is no exception. Given that he sports two large, clip-on wings (more on those later) it comes as no surprise to see that the financial impact of those one-off pieces has been absorbed by using one of the earliest bucks or body types, in this case the Spider-Man/skinny body-type. So if you were expecting to see any of the new joints or updated body sculpts, then be prepared for disappointment.

Thankfully Hasbro's designers have done a pretty good job of adding to the basic body with the inclusion of some additional character-specific pieces in the form of a belt, shoulder and neck armour and wrist bracers. So whilst fans of the Marvel Universe line may be disappointed to see the older body-type being re-used, there's almost enough extra detail to just about let that pass. ''Almost'' and ''just about'' being the operative phrases here.

These augmentations do a pretty good job of capturing Darkhawk's comicbook look. I have to say I'm not a massive fan of the design myself, as it strikes me as being a very 1990s style of design. I'm also continually reminded of ROM The Spaceknight. Whilst that wouldn't be a bad thing if this were a figure of ROM, it's not. It's Darkhawk and I can't really get away from that whenever I look at him.

As for the parts themselves, the shoulders and belt capture the angular, space-age look of the character from the comics well and the head design, although relatively simple, is OK for what it is. The bracers seem to sport a different design aesthetic to the other pieces, being more segmented/bulkier but that's more to do with the character's design and it's not fair to pick fault with the figure for recreating that look. The wing pieces, however, are very nice. They're designed to fit the contours of the arms and - when Darkhawk is posed appropriately - they appear attached to the costume, which looks cool, even if it does limit the actual poses you can really put him in.

As mentioned above, Darkhawk is based on one of the earlier Marvel Universe bucks and - because of that - his range of articulation is much more limited than that seen on some of the newer figures. It's just about passable but this body type really is starting to show its age and I'm hoping Hasbro will be phasing it out soon.

I've never been a huge fan of this body-type. The lack of a waist joint makes it rather inflexible and I was always surprised to see this body being used for the agile-type heroes like Spider-Man. To me it's never made sense, given it's not really a body that works for such characters and although Darkhawk isn't a kind of leaping/crouching-type character, it would have been nice to have a little more range in his poseability.

The actual joints themselves are well-produced and he'll hold most poses without too much effort, although he does suffer from very springy hips. Many a time I found myself becoming frustrated when trying to pose him due to the fact that his hips would snap-back into position, thus ruining the pose. There's also a little bit of slackness in the hips, depending where you position the leg.

Hasbro still seems to be trying to grasp a hip set-up that works but - as I've said many times before - it's time they switched-over to the GI Joe set-up, which works without any such issues.

One area where Darkhawk improves his lot is through his paintwork. Although the blue and silver colour scheme is - like his design - very 1990s, it's nicely applied here. His basic blue body colouring is augmented with a dark wash to pick-out the shadows and musculature and although there's a lot of it (as the costume doesn't feature a lot of breaks or other colours) it works well enough.

It's a shame then that the silver costume parts are simply cast from coloured plastic and don't have any high/low-light details. A dark silver wash would have really made the figure pop but - as it is - the silver accessory pieces look very cheap and plastic-y. Which maybe is part of the 1990s space-age aesthetic but I'm personally not a fan.

The head is fairly well detailed, with a reasonably clean app although some of the edges around the visor/crest are a little faded and should really be sharper.

Extras and Accessories
Darkhawk features - as mentioned earlier - a pair of clip-on wings, plus his own stand.

The wings are nicely produced pieces and the way they fit to the contours of the arms is a nice touch. They do little to inhibit the arm articulation but the illusion of them being attached to his costume does, of course, break when you bend his elbows. Still, it's a fairly elegant solution that allows for a good range of movement and looks pretty neat.

Final Thoughts
Darkhawk really has his work cut-out for him. As a lesser-known character, I doubt he's going to be that popular among casual fans or anything but the completist collector. Add to this the fact that his design is very dated aesthetically and that Hasbro has used an older body-type and you're left wondering not only why anybody would want this figure but also why Hasbro would think we would.

I applaud Hasbro for including some fairly obscure characters in the Marvel Universe line-up but there are much more deserving characters in the roster I'd like to see before Darkhawk. Thankfully Hasbro is planning to release some of them (Karnak! YAY!) but the release of Darkhawk just seems something of an oddity (although I understand he's recently made a comeback in the comics.)

There's not really much here for the casual collector or fan though and unless you're a huge Darkhawk mark or you've just got to have every Marvel Universe figure that comes out, you can safely skip this one without any worries. You're not missing out on much.

Sculpt and DesignB-
Extras and Accessories B
Final ScoreC+

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