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Ariel

Darkchylde
by yo go re

Ariel Chylde is a girl who turns into monsters, or something. I don't know, I didn't buy the handful of issues of Darkchylde I own for the storytelling - I bought them because they were 25¢ a pop from the comicshop's back issue bins, on the off chance that, someday, I might decide I wanted to read one. Thank the Goddess I never did - exhibit A:

"I look up into his eyes, deep, soulful brown eyes... glassed over as they are with pain. With loss. I've never even kissed him. I want to so bad but I don't. He tenses, and that look in his eyes gets very far away. This isn't going to have a happy ending..."

No, it's not some teenage girl's fanfic about how Johnny Depp fell in love with her, that's actual narration taken from an actual issue. Damn but '90s comics were crap. Still, no one was buying this for the story, so just so long as they packed a sufficient quantity of grandiose demon/monster/H.R. Giger things, and plenty of nubile mostly-naked female flesh, no doubt no one gave much of a toss. Just like Pizza Hut and Penthouse - it may be a lacklustre example of its field, but it's still good enough to eat.

Ariel in plastic form follows a similar give-the-audience-what-they-want strategy - she's 6" tall, and by my reckoning about 5½" of that's naked. Calling her "leggy" would be an understatement akin to suggesting that Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose is "mildly revealing"; her shins alone are the same height as her entire torso, and she has thighs to match, so physical proportions are a bit off, but that's a proper and accurate reflection of Randy Queen's Darkchylde art, so no foul there. A sign of the figure's age, the bare plastic of her skin is quite reflective, a contrast to the more muted skin tones on more modern painted figures, but to its credit the overall effect isn't unpleasant - it looks rather like she's had someone massaging oil into her, and shows off her fairish musculature.

She's decked out in the kind of ensemble you'd normally find in a DVD titled something like Best of Barely Legal: a top that'd have to have some material added to qualify as a bra, and denim shorts that've been cut off, then cut off again, then once more for good measure. Not complaining, mind you. The paint quality is quite high, with clean marking on the bra-shirt, and a very good job of drybrushing highlights onto the shorts, not just the denim surface but the pale lining, and a little flower patch on the left hip.

Ariel's face is good but not great - again, you can see the era of the workmanship, as it's respectable work for the time, but manufacturing has simply gotten better since then. The shiny skin continues, and the paintwork on lips and eyes isn't quite as precise and fine as you'd see nowadays, though it remains quite attractive at a glance, and again a good reproduction of the comic art. Her hair - which trails down below her hips - is a high-contrast drybrushing job, which is a difficult technique, and it's been executed very well here for an effective finish.

Ariel isn't the most articulated of figures, it must be said - she's very much intended for display. Her neck is a balljoint, but it's limited by the hair, and for her body she has only peg shoulders and slanted peg hips (hidden very effectively by the drybrushed shorts). Essentially she's a statue with a couple of posing options - absolutely typical for Moore Action Collectibles at the time - but on the upside she's a very attractive statue, with no unsightly joints mucking with the limbs.

Ariel has a chunky base, representing some kind of nightmare landscape - it's mostly some kind of grass, or maybe swampy moss, cast in midnight blue and highlighted strongly up to sea blue. A couple of nondescript chunks of stone and someone's ribcage provide a bit of decoration; it's all very cozy. There are pegs for both feet, as well as flattened areas in the base's texture to accommodate the soles of her block heels, making her very stable and unlikely to fall except with extreme provocation.

Representing her transformative powers, or whatever it is she does, she also has some alternate parts to turn her into half-dragon-monster-thing Ariel. Both arms are swappable, so instead of one or both regular human arms you can have her sporting demonic claws, fading from skin tone around the biceps to dark blue-grey talons with wicked claws. The monster arms, being less smooth to begin with, also have pin elbows without compromising their looks too much.

On top of those, she's got a pair of nightmarish vampire bat wings, which plug into her back and spread high over her head, on long, gnarled limbs. The wings have no articulation, and fit into rectangular holes in her back, so they can't be swivelled or spread, which is a bit of a shame - I tend to think they'd look better extended a bit wider than they are. The left wing's peg passes through a purpose-made gap in the hair, meaning that when the wing is in place the neck joint is immobilized.

And finally, the base - given the appropriate batteries - has a light-up function, with two pinpoint spotlights mounted in the forward corners of it, intended to shine up and illuminate Ariel's nightmarish hybrid figure in authentic ghost-stories-around-the-campfire fashion. It's not quite perfect, though, since the spots are aimed in the same place, but Ariel's body twists off to the right, meaning her left side - and left wing, if the wings are in place - gets a lot more light than the other. Like all light-up bases, of course, it's not something you can just leave running, since the batteries will die out; I always find the whole light-up notion a bit questionable if there isn't a full-time power cord attached, and wind up just leaving them unlit. Still, points for effort.

You don't hear much about Darkchylde nowadays - there was a Manga Darkchylde a while back, but it didn't turn many heads (and wasn't really "manga" anyway), and there's allegedly been a movie in the works since 2007, but there are so many minor comic properties with movies "in the works" that it's best to take these things with a grain of salt until you at least see a trailer. But Ariel's a good figure - sure she's got a couple of so-so quirks, like the wings locking the head and the spotlights being off, and she shows her age in a couple of areas, but she was a quality figure when she was made, and that's still the case.

-- 02/05/09


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