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Steel

Ame-Comi Heroine Series
by Artemis

It's been several months since DC Direct last put the "statue" in "statutory," so here we are with more Ame-Comis. The formula remains unchanged: take DC's existing line of not especially overdressed heroines (and the awkward addition of Batman, because they're pathologically incapable of not shoe-horning Batman into everything), remove half their costume and evidently most of their inhibitions, and wait for the shiny dollars to roll in. DC has had worse ideas; most of their comics, for instance. (Marvel too. Hell with them both!) And enough of those shiny dollars have rolled in for the line to run out of big-name heroes, so here's Steel. Not Shaq, the other one.

Natasha Jasmine Irons has a hammer and she knows how to use it! With high-tech armor and a hammer that replicates the powers of Superman, this Steel means business.

Steel the Second was one of those characters I'd never heard of until I picked up 52, although that's not so surprising since "those characters" were "the DC universe" at that point. Good introduction. Sadly for Natasha her career has been neither glorious nor coherent since her involvement in the big weekly saga, but if comicbook readers got disheartened every time a writer dropped the ball there'd be none left, so I guess I'm a fan; at least, I'm a fan of 52's Natasha Irons, which is close enough, since Ame-Comi's entire character history for her consists of those two sentences up there - let's pretend she's cool and interesting then.

Steel presents something of a conundrum to Ame-Comi, since Ame-Comi is Japanese for "nearly naked", and Natasha without her armor is nothing (or Vaporlock, which is near enough). The answer, aside from the obligatory missing armor plates, has been to go lop-sided, so half of her is armored but showing some skin, and half of her is slightly armored and showing a lot of skin. Her physique is reasonably fit by Ame-Comi standards - she's no She-Hulk, but there's some tone there compared to the outright girly-girls like Supergirl - but it's bulked out considerably by a full-on mech right thighboot and left gauntlet (presumably she swings her hammer southpaw). The sculpting is really quite intricate - not a complete departure from previous statues (Catwoman v2, Donna Troy, and even Power Girl had tech in their designs), but it's certainly the most concentrated array of bolted panels, segmented carapaces, and exoskeletal gribblies the line has yet attempted, and the sculpt does quite a good job of maintaining the engineered look of it all while preserving enough of the hot young thang shape to fit in with the rest of the range.

The paintwork is a little less impressive - serviceable, sure, but could have been better. The good is the skin, which is a rich dark flesh with just enough of a shine. And while there are occasional annoying glitches in the detail paintwork - on mine, the red in one of the head-tail energy vents caught the edge of its hollow - the positives far outweigh them, with lots of clean lines and little details on the armor picked out well (plus a very good "Iron Works" tattoo on her right shoulder). My complaint is just that the basic colour of the armor, the pale grey, isn't metallic. It's got a bit of gloss in it, sure, but for all its detail the suit looks like a cartoon rendition of metal, not the real thing. Arguably Ame-Comi should have a cartoonish quality, yes, but the sculpt has that covered - in real metallic paint, like the current-series Doctor Who Cybermen, or DC Direct's own Steel from the Superman/Batman line, she'd have been something special. The little energy vents also look a bit so-so, but that's not really their fault - the art has them radiating lightning, which could only have been done by sculpted plastic, and at this level of mass-production, probably wouldn't have been anything special.

While we're on paint, the dark blue panel on her chest looks like another one those times when the painter has gotten cold feet over how much skin the sculptor thought they'd get away with, but for once DC Direct are innocent of chickening out - it's raised to the level of the grey armour, not inset like the other bare skin areas. They did chicken out - again - on the butt, where the sculptor gave her possibly the line's most disappearing-up-the-crack g-string ever, with just a couple of extra armour panels to give it a tad more coverage (heaven only knows what they're supposed to be for in-story), and the painter has dutifully filled in a normal panty line in blue and grey. Honestly guys, just make up your mind how much arse you're comfortable with, and stick a memo on the notice board so everyone knows.

Her face is one of the better efforts from Ame-Comi - notably, it avoids the straight-ahead blank gaze that most of these have ended up with, regardless of what the art had in mind. 'Tash is looking off to one side, chin raised in playful arrogance like she's sassing someone, but with enough humour that it comes off as fun. The paintwork is very precise, and from a distance looks just right - close up the very dark outline around her lips looks over the top, but you won't be looking at the statue that closely much, and it needs to be there for the medium-red of her lips to stand out against her skin. She has a very cartoonish curl of blonde hair on the right side, balanced by her helmet's inbuilt microphone on the left.

As usual the standard pose is all you'll get, so it's just as well it's quite a characterful one. Her hammer - which I suppose is an accessory in that it's packaged separately, but unless you want her looking like she's doing the Numa Numa dance you'll let her keep it - is simple but effective in sculpt, but let down a bit by its paint. The idea, a metal hammerhead with a glowing core shown through circuit-like cracks, is fine, but the glow doesn't have enough yellow outside the Superman shield to work, and the attempt at brushed metal on the head is pretty lacklustre (which may explain why the body armour is plain grey, if that's the best they could do). There are no physical connections between the hammer and Natasha's body, it just sits wedged in between her wrists and shoulders (whichever way around you choose). Both wrists, incidentally, have swivel joints - if you really wanted you could swivel her right hand around so she's holding the hammer by its shaft vertically, but it's not long enough to reach the ground, and leaves the question of what the heck she's doing with her other hand in that case. Best leave things as they are. Like all recent Ame-Comi girls, she's got the new oval base, which her wide stands and large footprints (especially on the big mecha-boot) keep her very firmly attached to.

Brushed metal is the problem here - if they hadn't made such a mess of it on the hammer I'd have called it a crying shame that Steel hadn't looked like steel, but as it is, it may be that we dodged a bullet on that one. As it is, she's a good statue - interesting look, reminiscent enough of her origins while fitting into the Ame-Comi crowd, and nothing really wrong with her. If you fancy finding a paintbrush and some Chainmail Silver, the result might well be among Ame-Comi's best.

-- 11/21/10


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