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Black Canary

DC Direct Deluxe Collector's Figure
by Artemis

Okay, let's get this over with. I made a promise and I'm keeping it, but I'd rather not be sitting at my PC any longer than I have to right now. Turns out those "ergonomic" chairs, designed for comfort? Not if you're wearing a corset.

Born into a family of crime-fighters, Dinah Laurel Lance followed in her famous mother's footsteps to become one of the most integral members of some of the world's most illustrious heroic teams - as Black Canary. While her relationship with Oliver Queen (Green Arrow) sometimes overshadows her job, Black Canary is always at the top of the go-to list for recruitment in one or more international crime-fighting teams. An integral member of the Justice League of America and a core member of the Birds of Prey, this sonic siren is a true leader and master tactician/strategist. As an expert martial artist, Black Canary is lauded as one of the best fighters in the entire DC Universe. This fighting finesse, coupled with her object-shattering ultrasonic Canary Cry, allows Dinah Lance to stun her opponents into incapacitation, bringing the baddies to their knees. With an eye for trouble and a sense for danger, Black Canary is a perfect combination of beauty. brains and brilliance.

Nice bio (although she's the Chairwoman of the JLA, not just an "integral member"), but it's kind of aimed in the wrong direction - this doll is Dinah Drake Lance, the current Black Canary's mother. Laurel's varied her look now and then, especially in her early years (thanks to one of those ridiculous DC continuity wrangles, both Black Canaries were the same character originally), but these days her costume's firmly established, with the halter neck bodysuit (with or without a jacket), gloves, no belt, and straight-top boots with gold panels. This costume, with the bare hands, boots with cuffs, belt, choker, and magnificent cleavage - pure Dinah Drake. Not that that's a bad thing, just a bit odd that no one at DC Direct seemed to notice.

Anyway, wherever she is in the family tree, she's 13" of blonde super-bombshell. So far as I can see she's got the same body as the previous Power Girl doll, standard plastic except for the head and the chest, which is a special soft skin-tone section designed to match the head's finish. Unfortunately the exposed forearms and hands retain the rest of the body's somewhat shiny appearance, especially the forearms, which aren't so bad under a camera flash, but under standard ceiling lighting they kick light all over the place. The worst sin of the Power Girl body, its atrocious-looking legs with their ugly thigh swivels and poorly finish-matched knee segments, manage to hide themselves fairly well beneath Dinah's fishnet tights - as I've always maintained (and proven), you can get away with all sorts of flaws if you cover them in fishnets. The hollow between the thigh and hip housing is still visible, just below where the hip of the bodysuit starts, but the tights also hide that by making the legs quite dark, so your eye isn't drawn to the flaw.

The skin-tone chest section is a bit of a mixed blessing - I'm pretty sure they've used the exact same piece as was used on the Power Girl doll, and Power Girl had a paler skin tone than Black Canary, resulting in a noticeable difference between chest and face here. The re-use also means that she's inherited Power Girl's boobs, which is a bit silly - granted Black Canary (like every other superheroine) gets drawn with incredible breasts as often as not (and, for a character whose costume is generally drawn with a noticeably low hip line, it does tend to mysteriously morph into a thong back at times), but when you're claiming "realistically proportioned" on the packaging, giving Dinah Lance and Kara Zor-L the same cleavage is a bit of an odd choice, especially when the pleather bustier makes her chest look even bigger than Peegee's tight top does. It doesn't sabotage the look of the doll as a whole - the body's waist is half-rational, and bulked out with the bodysuit over it she at least avoids looking like one of those stick-with-two-beach-ball heroines - but it's a bit of cost-cutting the doll could've done without.

Dinah comes with two interchangeable heads - and, unless it's just a coincidence with my doll, the neck balljoint is slightly looser than the Power Girl one, allowing the heads to be swapped much more easily. No surprise, one head is looking kick-ass and serious, and the other one's letting loose a Canary Cry - which, post-retcon, Dinah Drake didn't have. Yelling's a difficult expression to pull off - the "Women of the DC Universe" Black Canary bust is one of the better examples, but attempts at shouts are fraught with danger for the sculptor - and this one makes a valiant attempt, but stumbles at the finishing line, mainly due to poor lipstick at the sides of her mouth, making her lips look a bit clownish. The plain head is far superior, with its elegantly arched eyebrows and slightly pursed lips - both faces have the quality, but the plain one really nails the femme fatale/blonde bombshell look of the silver screen days.

Both heads have the same mane of wavy blonde hair, a well-judged cornfield yellow that's neither too pale or too heavily coloured. The hair sits away from her back a bit, but thanks to good sculpting on the underside of the hair, it doesn't look too bad - you wouldn't actually get hair lifting off the back like that, even if she were moving forwards or heading into a breeze, but the sculpt equivalent of sleight-of-hand means you don't really notice that until you stop and think of it. If she's wearing her jacket, the effect is obviously helped by the extra soft layer over her back. Finally, each head has its own domino mask, with Dinah Drake wore in her early appearances, but quickly ditched - I don't recall her daughter ever wearing it (though I never paid her much attention until she fell into the talented hands of Gail Simone, so I may be wrong). The masks are thin but rugged enough pieces, which attach by clipping onto the bridge of the nose - in place the width of the plastic is a bit of a drawback, given that domino masks are pretty thin, especially in comics where they're generally drawn as if they're just painted on, but if you're eager specifically for a masked Black Canary, they'll do the job well enough.

The body is reasonably well articulated, although nothing truly remarkable given the kind of flexibility it's fair to expect at this scale. The torso has a balljoint neck, pin sternum, and swivel waist; the arms swivel-pin shoulders with a high bicep swivel, double pin elbows, and swivel wrists; the legs swivel/pin hips, mid-thigh swivels, double pin knees, and swivel/pin ankles. The swivel wrists are a drawback imposed by the swappable hands - she has two pairs, open hands and closed fists - but there's no real reason she couldn't have had a third axis to her ankles, to tilt the foot sideways, and lacking it means she's a bit limited in stability in dramatic stances. Still, she's pretty capable.

Besides the alternate head and hands, there are some customization options with her costume as well. Her choker is just an elastic strap around her neck with a plastic disc at the front, so it's easily removed while the head's off. The jacket also comes off - ideally while her hands are detached, though it can fit over them with a bit of work if you'd rather not, and while it leaves the clash between the soft chest and hard, glossy arms plain to see, it's a striking look, and the backs of her shoulders are sculpted in properly, rather than just being a plain surface. The bodysuit zips up the back, with a stud clasp beneath the zip at the top to keep it from slowly being worked open - the arrangement isn't very pretty to look at from behind, but it means the suit can be removed easily, and the boots can also be unzipped for easier removal, leaving just the tights to slide off. Like Power Girl, the one part of her that can't be removed is the belt, which is still irritating.

Dinah comes with the usual DC Direct 13" stand, a matte black oval with the character logo applied in gloss - it's all but invisible under normal lighting, as you'll have guessed from how much I had to ramp up the brightness and contrast to get it to show up in the photo. The stand has a bulky waist clamp, which has to be worked on from the side since, aside from the flexibility of the plastic itself, it's got no way of opening, and once in place it slides onto the vertical beam, where a spring-loaded button keeps it in place at any one of a dozen or so positions, ranging from "just high enough to reach the doll's waist" to "why even bother having a position that low?" It's not a very elegant base, but in this case the use of black plastic rather than a thinner metal clamp allows it to blend into the costume fairly well, especially if the jacket's on.

I had a right old whinge about Power Girl, and while I won't deny that Black Canary is a better product, I still have trouble thinking of her as value for money. Her costume's decent, and while the body has its foibles (mainly the re-used Power Girl chest), they tend to hide rather than catch the eye. But she's still just not up to the standard you see on other dolls of this size from companies like Sideshow - even taking into account the fluctuations in currency since then (which are really starting to get on my nerves), Dinah's more expensive than my 12" Asajj Ventress, and Asajj is clearly the superior product.

I'll finish with one thing - if DC Direct had included an alternate bodysuit, with the current Black Canary's halter neck instead of the open chest, I'd have happily considered it money well spent. Alternate boots, gloved hands, and a detachable belt would've been perfect, but just the bodysuit alone - and how much would a single pleather garment really cut into their profit margin? - would have been enough, even given that you'd have to go through the hassle of stripping and re-dressing her all without being able to take off the belt. As is... well, on her own merits she's a decent doll, but she's overpriced.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to get out of these goddamned heels. Six inch stilettos, people - don't think we OAFEs never suffer to bring you your reading material.

-- 01/06/09


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