Toy Review: Batman White Knight Figures and Silver Age Variants

Not counting the Bruce Timm animated-style figures, Batman: White Knight is McFarlane Toys‘ first comic artist-specific subline in their DC Multiverse figures. Sean Murphy’s angular art, often accompanied by super-moody coloring and lighting, looks amazing and distinctive in 2D, but making it into solid 3D figures leads somewhere else entirely. It’s an interesting try and worthy attempt, but in the end only one of the three really excels.

That one is Azrael, from the second “Murphyverse” arc, Curse of the White Knight. Since absolutely no bare skin is exposed on him, nothing about Azrael looks overly stylized. Mostly, he looks like a Mattel-type action figure with McFarlane-esque touches. Of all the DC figures the company has done so far, he looks the most like a toy from the big two, with He-Man-style muscles, bright colors, and full poseability. His sword even includes a slide-off “flame” effect, like so many of Hasbro’s recent Power Rangers.

The McFarlane touches come in the wash on his armor that makes the details pop, and a cape in six individual strands that’s more elaborate than recent similar characters in mainstream lines (coughMRSINISTERcough). The hood never hinders his neck articulation in any way, and the double knee is nicely integrated into the beefier legs.

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One issue he shares with Batman, though, is that the ratchet marks on his elbow joint are visible and non-diegetic, a flaw in several McFarlane DC figures with single-elbows. There’s no need for it — fans would be fine with those joints not ratcheting if it left a cleaner sculpt.

As far as Batman goes otherwise, he’s an odd blend. To get him to look just like the artwork would take something like what McFarlane used to do with Ashley Wood Spawn figures, making near statues with muted palettes. Since the goal here is a fully poseable figure, it’s kind of halfway between Murphy art and a standard Batman toy. As a toy, it works. But the costume design seen in this form…not so much.

It’s one of those Batman redesigns that seems changed solely for the sake of change. How are the wrist fins coming out of his bodysuit? How does he even move much in hip-tall wading boots? What’s the point of a bat-logo if it’s so abstracted it no longer looks like a bat? Those choices aren’t McFarlane’s fault, but they’re designed to work in a surreal, stylized universe. The toy, on the other hand, exists in ours.

He includes three accessories: a grappling gun, and two batarang batropes (coiled and unfurled), one of which can hook to his belt. He’s beefier than the first McFarlane Batman, and has a better proportioned head than that figure’s tiny noggin. So he has nice heft, and works decently as a toy. These just aren’t the design choices fans will necessarily prefer.

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Joker is a different sort of redesign. The White Knight storyline sees Gotham’s evil clown get cured. then, as Jack Napier, he forms the Gotham Terrorism Oppression unit to fight vigilantes like Batman. Once more, this is a stylized take that would benefit from a more subjective palette and maybe less articulation, but to make it a figure creates this in-between hybrid. With the Napier head it makes a cool pre-Joker figure — the only one I’m aware of in existence. But as a Joker, one just wishes for a better Joker.

Not exactly part of the same wave, but shipping alongside them, are two Silver Age Batman variants, in blue and gray. Originally announced as chase figures, they seem more common than that designation suggests, though they do include foil cards like the chase Joker. One is the animated Batman, who’s a straight repaint. Original scheme gets the edge here for having the lining of his cape painted while this one doesn’t. Otherwise, they’re pretty much the same.

The Detective Comics #1000 Batman features more differences. McFarlane Toys’ first Batman figure was also their weakest, not especially close to the original artwork and oddly proportioned compared to other figures. But on this one, even though the head sculpt appears the same, the coloration of the jaw comes off more realistic. And the eyes are smaller, with thin black outlines, for a much-improved look. The chest piece also differs, with the classic Bat-logo sculpted in place of the black bat. And the belt is new/old, too.

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And maybe it’s just being a child of the Silver Age, but something about the color scheme triggers the nostalgia feels. Yes, blue and gray is silly when thought of in practical terms. No bat is bright blue, and the black costumes all look more intimidating. But for folks of a certain age, THIS is Batman. And we don’t want Adam West to be the last to wear it like that.

There’s more — much more — in our image gallery below. Tell us which Batman is your favorite in comments.

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