Pros: Amazing sculpting; great display piece
Cons: Drab paint ops; shield prone to breakage
He'd become a Hellspawn in order to stare at his own memorial of honor and nothing more. Knighthood and chivalry became his obsession. When a demon attacked, attempting to goad him into using his hell-born powers, Sir John, the Medieval Spawn, began to guess the true nature of his bargain. He resisted Hell's machinations to the end.
I'm going to try and be fair in this review. MS3 was meant for figure collectors, not for kids. It's not meant to be played with. There was a time when I was a great fan of McFarlane, but as McFarlane's figures have become increasingly detailed and less articulated - less like "toys" - I've bought them less and less. I love medieval figures, which is why I picked up this particular one while ignoring the rest of Series 20. McFarlane Toys are generally display pieces, made from soft plastics so they can absorb detail better. They're not durable at all, and are prone to break even if they fall only a few feet. (Often they'll break right out of the package as you try and manipulate a wrist or some other small joint; to prevent this, I recommend freezing a figure that has any stiff joints, then gently (gently!) twisting the joint until it moves smoothly.) In this review I will try to walk a line between the average figure collector and the diehard Spawn collector. The recommendation is for them. Parents shouldn't consider this for their kids unless the kid is at least ten or has no interested in actually playing with it.
Medieval Spawn was one of the earliest characters in the Spawn mythos, created by Todd McFarlane. After the Spawn comic became a success in the early '90s, McFarlane started shopping the brand name around to a few different toy companies. Unsatisfied with the prototypes they showed him, McFarlane decided to found his own toy company. Within a few months, the first wave of Spawn toys hit the market. Included in this wave was an action figure of Medieval Spawn.
Those original Spawn figures had been made from solid plastic and, while detailed, were fairly standard toys. The sculpting was adequate, though not spectacular. The articulation was standard: T-crotch and cut joints at the knees, shoulders and neck. The accessories were a tad weak: the original Medieval Spawn had a little jagged sword and a shield with the "Spawn" logo that spun around when you wound it up (for a picture of that first M. Spawn, copy and paste this URL into your address bar: http://www.linkandpinhobbies.com/graphics/tmedieva.jpg) McFarlane Toys got a lot of mileage out of the first Medieval Spawn: it was released in a bunch of variations, ranging from the standard blue outfit to a special black one, and he was even released with an accompanying horse figure. There was also a 12" version of Medieval Spawn.
Cut to almost ten years and nineteen toy lines later. A lot has changed. Over the years, McFarlane Toys had begun to focus more and more on sculpting, on raising the bar for the action figure industry. He succeeded, in spades. Starting around Series 10 or 11, the quality of sculpting on McFarlane Toys shot through the roof. He truly gave the industry a kick in the head, challenging the other toy companies to improve their own sculpting. The results have been evident everywhere - Hasbro's Star Wars line, Toy Biz's Lord of the Rings toys...collectors now knew they could expect more from a toy company, and they started getting it.
With Series 20, McFarlane decided to revisit some of those first figures from Series 1. There was actually a Medieval Spawn II a few lines previously, but it was very different from the original Medieval Spawn and the M. Spawn of the comics. Collectors clamored for a comics-inspired update of Medieval Spawn, and they got it in Medieval Spawn III, shown above.
MS3 perfectly reveals the direction that McFarlane Toys has taken since that first line. Gone is the standard articulation. MS3 has cut knees joints, a V-crotch, joints at the wrist, waist and neck, and ball-jointed shoulders. Unfortunately, the ball-jointed shoulders are relatively useless. The left one, in particular, is trapped by the shoulder armor and the cape. Speaking of which, the cape is made from a rubbery plastic, quite a change from the super-starched plastic of the original's. While the list of articulation certainly looks good on paper, it's ultimately useless. This is not a figure to be played with - it's a toy to be displayed. The articulation is, at best, useful for giving the figure a few dynamic poses.
However, as with most recent McFarlane figures, MS3 really only has one good pose, shown in the picture. This is exactly like the drawing the figure is based on, from the "Spawn Bible" by Greg Capullo (the Series 20 line was based on Capullo's artwork, mostly from the Bible).
The packaging for the figure was a little boring. All the figures in Series 20 had the same packaging, with a comicbook picture of Spawn on the upper right corner. Otherwise it's your standard blister-bubble-on-card affair. Once you open the figure, you'll have to contend with the generous use of twisty-ties that are a McFarlane trademark, as well as a powerful plastic smell that can sometimes induce visions of Elvis.
The sculpting, of course, is top-notch. An incredible job, as is always to be expected of McFarlane. Even the cape looks great. What caused me some dismay, however, was the paint ops. Every McFarlane figure looks great in prototype, but when you actually see the figure, they look like dark blobs. I'm not sure whether they go overboard on the washes or what, but this figure is pretty drab. The silver armor on the legs and mask brighten it up a bit, but the cape is an impenetrable orange-brown and everything else has brown tinges all over it. While the colors might be realistic (as realistic as something called Medieval Spawn can be), I feel they detract from an otherwise interesting figure.
The accessories are a mixed bag. The axe is really cool, but for some reason it hangs limply in Medieval Spawn's hand. The hand just won't grip it tightly. That's why he has to hold it with the blade edge on the ground, balancing it. The shield is worse. Mine was warped, and the three little arrows sticking out of it - battle damage - immediately snapped off when I opened the package. If you want to preserve those arrows, be as careful as possible opening the package. But it gets worse - MS3 can't hold the shield very well, owing to the limited movement of the left arm. All it would have taken was some cut-bicep articulation to fix that problem, but no, it's not there, so you have to jam the shield onto his left wrist - and again, watch out for those arrows.
It should be noted that the version discussed in this review is the one released to speciality shops (comic shops and whatnot). It has blood on the axe. The version released to retailers like Toys R Us or Kay-Bee Toys is a "clean" version that doesn't have the blood.
Overall I was underwhelmed by Medieval Spawn III. I had been excited at hearing about the ball-joint shoulders, but they're fairly useless. That and the drab paint ops make this a rather average McFarlane figure. I expected more. Add to that the shoddy quality of the shield, and I'm afraid I can't quite recommend this figure.
"Hooray for Toys!" Write-off.
Well, the American Toy Fair just wrapped up, and I have to say this year I was underwhelmed. Almost everything that interested me I already knew about or had seen pictures of. The nicest surprise was seeing Toy Biz's Balrog figure from its "Lord of the Rings" movie line. For a picture of the figure, copy and paste this URL: http://188.8.131.52/toyfair2002/toybiz/DSC01585.JPG
But while I'm looking forward to the Balrog, I have to say my most-anticipated release this year is the all-new He-Man and the Masters of the Universe line. Sculpted by none other than the Four Horsemen, four of the best sculptors that McFarlane Toys has ever employed, the line features all-new, super-detailed interpretations of all the original He-Man characters. The figures themselves look like a great compromise between sculpting and articulation, one of the hardest balances in the toy industry. I plan on getting most, if not all of the figures. In many ways, this line is a dream come true for me - for a lot of people. I fondly remember He-Man from my childhood, and this new line allows me to revisit those early days while still satisfying my modern collecting desires for good sculpting and articulation. For lots of pictures of the new toys, check out the best He-Man website out there, http://www.he-man.org
This Write-Off is run by yogore. To read his entry, go to http://www.epinions.com/content_55773073028 For his profile and a description of the Write-Off, go to http://www.epinions.com/user-yogore