Heavy Metal: Deluxe Taarna & Avis by Executive Replicas

I have a tremendous amount of nostalgia for the 1981 adult cartoon anthology masterpiece, Heavy Metal. It seemed like it was always being shown on Cable TV and I must have watched it every damn time I came across it. It was like some kind of mystical taboo treasure that I knew I shouldn’t be watching, being as young as I was, but it sparked my imagination (among other things), and it was probably the very first time I discovered that cartoons weren’t just for kids. I don’t think I fully understood it until way later, but man is it a wild ride! It definitely left its mark on me and hell, I even own a UMD copy of it for my SOny PSP… so there’s a bit of humble bragging for ya! Sadly, there hasn’t been a whole lot of decent merch for this flick, which is a shame, because there are some amazing character designs. The far inferior sequel Heavy Metal 2000 or FAKK 2, or whatever the hell it calls itself, did get some action figures and a video game, but nothing great. So naturally when Executive Replicas revealed they were doing a proper 6-inch scale Taarna figure with her flying mount Avis, well I was excited! The Taarna figure is also available to pre-order, without Avis, as a limited exclusive.

The set comes in a very nice looking window box with some really iconic artwork on the back. I can never work out exactly what kind of company Executive Replicas is, but best I can tell they partner with sculptors and toy producers to release licensed product. LooseCollector is also credited on the box, and I think they are the the actual producers of the figure. I’ve featured some of Executive Replicas’ work with Phicen’s Sixth-Scale figures, but their one previous release that relates most to this one is their partnership with Coffin Comics and the 6-inch scale Lady Death figure. That figure established a cohesive line of sculpting and articulation that continues on to this release, as well as future releases which will include several more Coffin Comics and some indie comic characters. And yes, I have virtually all of those on pre-order, so they will turn up here eventually. Anyway, the packaging here is collector friendly, and while Avis requires a little assembly, everything can go back into the box with no worries. Let’s start with Taarna!

Taarna comes kitted out in her skimpy Taarakian battle armor… ah, who am I kidding? This ain’t armor. It’s barely a bikini. Either way, part of it is sculpted and other parts are just painted onto the figure. The combination works pretty well and the paint lines are reasonably sharp. There’s a little gold applied to the buckles and a gold bicep band on her left arm. Taarna also has her sculpted red boots as well as a gauntlet and shoulder armor for her sword arm. I really like the wash given to her boots and gauntlet, as it’s somewhat evocative of some of the panel art in the comics. I’m not as keen on the red blemishes scattered over her body. I’m assuming this is supposed to be bruising from battle, and in fairness Taarna takes a lot of abuse in the film, but I think I would have preferred her without these marks.

OK, here’s the weird part. The figure comes with two different heads, and I’m not sure what they are each supposed to signify. The obvious answer is one has regular hair and one has windblown hair. But the hair pieces are actually removable and can be used for either head. The eyes are different colors, the purple eye makeup is more pronounced on one, and there’s more color in the cheeks. But why? I can understand a second head with a different expression, but the differences here seem more like a minor paint variation. Even the solo Taarna exclusive only has one head to share the two hair pieces. Either way, I do prefer the first head over the second, but I don’t think either one does a great job of capturing the character likeness. Taarna often looked a lot more pissed off, and I wish at least one of these portraits portrayed that. They’re fine, but just not spectacular.

It’s not easy incorporating a lot of articulation into a figure that shows a lot of skin, unless you’re going with something like a Phicen seamless body. All in all, I think they did a nice job here. The arms have rotating hinges in the shoulders, single hinges in the elbows, swivels in the biceps, and hinged pegs in the wrists. The legs are ball jointed up in the hips, have swivels in the thighs, double-hinges in the knees, and hinges and rockers in the ankles, although the sculpting in the ankles does curtail the range of movement there quite a bit. There’s a ball joint under the chest and the neck is double ball-jointed. This is a fun figure to pose and play with, and the joints all feel great.

Taarna comes with her gold sword with a red scabbard. The sword doesn’t sport a lot of detail in the sculpt, but it looks pretty close to the design in the film. Her relaxed hands can be swapped out to allow her to hold the sword as a lefty or a righty, and the scabbard hooks onto the belt off her left hip. The sword is fine, but the scabbard has a few little issues. For starters, the blade is a very tight fit, and I don’t feel comfortable inserting it all the way up to the hilt for fear of getting out again. The scabbard is also a curved a bit, so that might be the problem. Attaching it to the belt works OK, but I would have preferred a peg so the scabbard could be angled while she is wearing it. As it is, it can be a bit awkward and as a result, I tend to prefer to display her without it. OK, let’s move on to Avis…

Out of the box, Avis requires her wings and tail fins to be attached. The wings socket in with ball joints, which offer a bit of articulation, while the fins simply tab into place. I actually expected this to be a mostly static figure, but in addition to the wings, there’s a little bit of movement where the legs meet the body, and a decent amount of movement in the neck. Make no mistake, there isn’t a lot of poseability here, but what we get is still plenty cool. Now, it would have been really cool to get a second set of legs and a clear stand to put her into flight mode, but no doubt that would have added a lot to the cost of the set. Either way, Avis is a very solid and substantial figure with some really nice texturing all over her skin and some fine shading bringing out the details in her otherwise pale orange hide. You also get some great sculpted detail in the leg muscles and in the feet and talons.

She’s got an adorable head sculpt with big green eyes and a prominent beak. The reigns are permanently attached and are cast in soft rubbery plastic. Yup Avis is just adorable and I still find the scene where Avis gets wounded hard to watch.

Some really nice attention went into the sculpting and paint on her saddle and gear. You get a green bedroll, a pair of saddlebags, and a round thing, which might be a canteen or something. The saddle is textured to look like worn leather, and you get some nice hits of gold paint on the sculpted buckles and snaps.

Taarna can mount Avis pretty well without any assists, like a peg up her butt. Indeed, there aren’t even any stirrups for her feet, but I don’t recall there being any in the movie, nor are there any on the poster art. Her sword holding hands work perfectly for taking the reins, and she looks damn great atop her flying steed! Yup, this is surely the way she’s going to be displayed!

It feels like part of me has been waiting almost four decades for a figure set like this, and I’m mighty happy to have Taarna and Avis on my shelf, despite a few nitpicks here and there. It’s not a perfect set, but it’s still a pretty damn good one. The MSRP is $129, which feels about right for something from an old movie and a fairly small production company. Still, I really wish Executive Replicas would have gone the Phicen seamless route on this figure. Had they done her with their 6-inch scale body, they could have still included this Avis, and I think the result would have been pretty spectacular. Hell, I’d still be down for picking up a Phicen/TBLeague release of Taarna in either the 6-inch or 12-inch scale. That would be a perfect marriage! Back at the beginning, I mentioned that the Taarna figure is up for pre-order all by herself, but for whatever reason that figure is priced at $85, which is batshit crazy, especially considering this set is still pretty widely available, and you get Avis included for only $50 more.

Legacy Series: Lady Death by Coffin Comics

Brian Pulido and Coffin Comics have done a bang up job bringing back Lady Death in a series of some of the most successful comic-based projects on Kickstarter. Not only does each new volume gets funded immediately, they all seem to set new records, showing that the Legions of Sworn are in no short supply. I look forward to each and every one of these, as the books are unbelievably high in quality, feature drop-dead gorgeous art and colors, and are just so damn fun to read. It’s great to see that Lady Death has come so far since being introduced as arm-candy for Evil Ernie back in the day. Meanwhile, Meanwhile, she’s seen a decent amount of merch and collectibles in recent years, including an amazing Sixth-Scale figure from TBLeague, and a damn fine Gallery Statue from Diamond Select Toys! And now, taking a cue from Hasbro’s Marvel Legends, Lady Death gets the 6-inch action figure treatment thanks to a pre-order campaign run by the folks at Coffin Comics themselves.

They certainly did a bang up job with the packaging! Lady Death comes in a collector-friendly window box with an illustrated inferno backdrop, the Coffin Comics logo at the bottom and her name up top. The figure itself is nestled in a clear plastic tray with a top cover over it, and she displays really well in the package. The flipside has a picture of the figure in a fantasy setting, along with a little blurb about the character and some highlighted features about the figure. On the bottom we have a tease of four future figures. I sincerely hope this isn’t just a mock up, and that Coffin is actually planning on releasing them, because I sure as hell am down for each one.

The side panels feature some beautiful character art with Lady Death sporting a couple different variants of her costume. I love this art, and I wish they had credited the artist on the box. I happen to collect quite a few art prints of of Pulido’s characters, and I wouldn’t mind picking up prints of these, particularly the one on the right. Lastly, the box does feature a J-hook, in case you want to hang the box on the wall, or maybe you have a wall of pegboard for displaying your packaged figures!

Here’s Lady Death out of the package and straightaway I am very impressed with the quality. With a first attempt figure like this one, you can never be quite sure what you’re going to get. Case in point, I had a Cassie action figure from Hack/Slash on pre-order, but wound up cancelling before it shipped, and after seeing the final product, I really dodged a bullet. Thankfully, this figure feels like a professional effort through and through, and I’ve got very few nitpicks. The sculpt is very nice, with the costume design taking the middle ground between her very simple style and the hyper-detailed one. I think it was a good choice. She sports a sculpted bra-top and G-string with golden skull fasteners in all the key places. Her thigh-high boots have sculpted belts connecting to the G-string, and she has a plastic cape, which hangs around her neck and stops just a bit below her knees.

The coloring on the figure is quite well done. Her skin consists of a chalky white plastic, which contrasts nicely with the black costume. The black also has some blue shading to give it that comic-panel style coloring, which makes for a very cool effect. The skull fixtures are hit with gold leaf paint, and her fingernails are painted bright crimson, as is the interior of her cape. The quality of the paint application is overall very solid. There are some examples of very minor overspray between her costume and skin, but you have to get in pretty close to see it, so it’s hardly worth mentioning.

The portrait is right on target, even if it is a rather soft sculpt, it still manages to capture Lady Death’s powerful beauty. Her lips are painted bright crimson and she has black eyebrows as well as black liner around her pupil-less eyes. All of these applications are razor sharp. Her flowing white hair is sculpted as part of the head and features some black wash and blue highlights. It’s also sculpted slightly above the shoulders so that her copious coif doesn’t curtail her neck articulation. Would I have liked an alternate head with a fierce expression? Sure! But given that we only had one, I’m very content with the more neutral tone.

Oh yes, the cape is removable, simply by popping off the head, which frees up the figure’s range of motion and allows you to better appreciate the view from behind.

Speaking of movement, I was very curious to see how this figure would articulate in hand, and I’m happy to report that the designers made some excellent decisions. The arms feature rotating hinges in the shoulders, single-hinges in the elbows, swivels in the biceps, and the hands are attached with hinged pegs to allow them to be swapped out. You get one pair of relaxed hands and one pair of accessory holding hands. The legs are ball jointed in the hips, have double hinges in the knees, swivels in the thighs, and hinges and rockers in the ankles. There’s a ball joint under the chest, and the head attaches to the body with a swiveling peg and a ball joint up top. The joints are a tad more loose than I’m used to seeing in Hasbro’s 6-inch figures, but it’s not an issue with her holding her poses. Indeed, all the joints feel sturdy. The balance on this figure is also exceptional, especially when the cape is removed. Even with her high heels, I didn’t have to resort to using a figure stand for a single shot. If pressed, my one gripe with the articulation would be a greater range of motion in the ball joint under the chest. It swivels fine, but there isn’t a lot of room for her to bend forward or back. Let’s have a look at her accessories!

First off, she comes with her trusty sword, Deathbringer, and it’s quite the beautiful weapon! The quality and attention to detail make this look like a sixth-scale weapon that’s been shrunken down. Besides the intricately sculpted hilt and guards, it has a two-tone paint job with the hilt painted in bronze, the blade in silver, and bronze again in the central channel that runs the length of the blade. It also has an extended grip for two-handed wielding, and the figure’s articulation certainly allows it.

And she also includes her Hell Scythe, which isn’t quite as ornate as the sword, but it’s a mighty impressive accessory due to its formidable size. The long shaft has some sculpted wraps for a grip and the head and blade are painted bright silver.

And before wrapping up, here’s a quick comparison shot of Lady Death with Hasbro’s Satana Hellstrom from their Marvel Legends line. They scale closely with one another, and I think Lady Death stacks up pretty damn well, although you could argue whether or not it’s a fair comparison. Marvel Legends are mass produced figures, which sell for about $20-22 at retail, whereas Lady Death is a collectible produced in a smaller quantity and sold for $50. Still, as I pointed out with the example of the Hack/Slash figure, these things don’t always work out. Hasbro’s figure may be less expensive, but they also have infinitely more experience under their belt. Either way, I think the comparison favors Lady Death!

If you can’t tell, I’m thrilled with how this figure turned out! Sure, fifty bucks is no small amount for a 6-inch figure, but in the end, I think it was well worth it. I’m not sure how the partnership works, but the box has Executive Replicas credited, and they are the same company that Phicen teamed up with to release their Sixth-Scale Lady Death. Whatever the case, somebody really knew what they were doing. The result was a top-notch action figure, that is doubly impressive for a first effort. And as I said, I really am all-in on whatever other characters they make, but I’m certainly rooting for Hellwitch being next!