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Lady Vashj

World of Warcraft
by Artemis

Nāgas (or just "nagas" - the funky "ā" is more or less optional, depending on language, nuance, and whether the writer can be bothered to remember the ASCII code for it or go into the symbol menu) are one of those ancient mythological critters that just won't go away, like centaurs and harpies and virgins, so it's no surprise that World of Warcraft has some. I mean, if it was Hecatonchires, you'd raise an eyebrow - they don't show up so often, probably because the cover artist complains about having to draw so many hands - but these days you can barely start a fantasy story without half-human-half-snakes showing up, like rats.

Lady Vashj was born in the city of Zin-Azshari, capital of the night elves, sometime before the War of the Ancients. Once chief among Queen Azshara's handmaidens, Vashj became one of the serpentine naga when Azshara and her followers were sent to the bottom of the sea during the Great Sundering.

Thank you WoWWiki - as usual DC Unlimited haven't bothered with a bio, but not as usual (at least among the girls), Vashj isn't just someone they made up who may or may not turn up later on in the comic. Vashj's voice actress Barbara Goodson (of Fraggle Rock, among other things) describes her as "strong, full of conviction, and passionate," which is a bit of a worry - throwing "passionate" into any character description is like a red rag to the Rule 34 artists, who'd then have to grapple with the age-old problem of how to do porn of someone who's non-humanoid from the waist down, and possibly led to a bunch of owners of reptilian anatomy web pages wondering why the heck they were suddenly getting all these hits.

Vashj (it sounds kind of like "Vosh," apparently) is one of the "deluxe collector figures" in the World of Warcraft line, though luckily that doesn't mean she's an overpriced badly-designed 1:6 doll with lackluster tailoring and crappy skin finishes - it just means she's big. And overpriced, alright, but these days what isn't? She measures 10" tall to the top of her Medusaesque hairdo, plus 7" wide and 8" deep, so make sure you've got a nice big spot on the shelf for her. Like earlier figures she needs a little assembly, though nothing fancy - her tail is packed separately, plugging in just behind the largest fin, and naturally her various weapons need to be put in her mitts before she's ready to play, but that's it. For stability she plugs (very firmly) into a black oval base - the centerline of the base is oriented to her torso, so the tail twists off to the right and leaves some blank base-space at the rear-left, but as bases go it's pretty conservative in how much shelf it eats up, given Vashj's own size.

Your original Sanskrit n­aga would properly be based on a king cobra, but befitting both Vashj's aquatic habitat and World of Warcraft's firm belief that you can't possibly be far enough over the top, her snake half is a kind of giant monster eel/dragon combo, bristling with rough scales, armoured down the belly with heavy overlapping plates, and sprouting a number of jagged fins from its spine. The blue scales and lilac heavy plates are a nice soft contrast for the vivid hot pink fins, but though it looks okay at a glance, there's a lilac drybrush over the dorsal scales that's rather amateurish, particularly on the back at the dividing line between snake and elf, where the blue just stops dead and leaves it, dismally, to the drybrushing to make it a smoother join. Luckily from the front the join is covered by the strap holding on the trailing cloth (which itself doesn't look that good, cast in rather thick-looking translucent pink, like the fins).

The upper body benefits from good, if uncomplicated, work on the ancient-looking armour Vashj is wearing, sculpted with lots of over-ornate detail and painted with a gold drybrush over a base of green. It's not fancy enough to turn heads on its own, but as part of the whole figure it's good enough not to let her down; the matching belly armour helps tie the two halves of the figure together, as well as presumably provide some nasty ramming potential in a melee. The six arms are packed in tightly around the shoulders, and in a neat touch several of the hands have had their thumbs cast as separate pieces, rather than the whole hand being done at once, meaning they can clutch wickedly. The pale blue-green skin on Vashj is a flat colour with no shading, once it's past the vestigial scales rising from her waist, but on the webbing between her fingers a wash of purple has been added, with mediocre results. Articulation is more or less non-existent - each of the arms has a bicep swivel, but since they're packed in so close together, and sculpted with such obvious poses, you can do little but minor tweaking with them.

Vashj's head is pretty much the only bit of her that's still the size it presumably was back when she was just an elf, and since it sits on top of a body that, even hunched over, tops a human by several inches, she's fixed looking permanently downwards. Luckily the paintwork thus displayed most prominently, the fade from skin colour to black on her forehead, is very smooth; the rest of her facial paint is plain but clean enough, glossy purple lips and eye markings around plain yellow eyes.

The huge mass of snakes she's got for hair are designed very well, as several separate pieces applied one over the other so that the mass of serpentine bodies can twist and writhe amongst themselves without presenting casting problems. They're painted plain black, which is a bit of a shame, though given how the drybrush on the scales lower down turned out, perhaps it's for the best. Their bodies have diamond scale patterns, but the heads are more eel than snake, especially the lowest and thickest which has a fin along the top of its body.

Considering the options available (remember Lotus Warrior Angel?) Vashj is wielding a rather restrained arsenal of just two weapons, a sword and a bow. The sword is a nasty, jagged piece of work, with a flat silver blade and brown wrappings on the handle, the rest of the hilt being gold-green to match the armour. The bow is evidently called Frostfathom, and Warcraft claims it's a composite longbow, which it totally isn't. Even with it being bent at full draw, it's obviously a recurved bow, much like the Mongol cavalry bows (fitting, since Vashj is practically cavalry all by herself). It's ridiculously over-decorated, like everything in WoW - with cobra heads at the tips, nice touch - but it's painted in the same serviceable-but-dull fashion as the armour, and on a visually significant point like the figure's primary weapon, that's not really good enough. Both sword and bow split in two at the handles to be inserted into Vashj's grip, while the arrow fits into a notch in the drawing hand. The arrow came out of the packaging with a bit of a leftward bend on mine, but it can be forced straight by wedging it firmly in the drawing hand with the front of the shaft pressing up against the side of the bow hand.

It must be said, I'm disappointed with Vashj. She's got her good points, and overall there's not that much to complain about (especially compared to the first series's woeful Valeera), but the recent Benedron and Tamuura figures indicated this line would be aiming for high display value, as it should with virtually no articulation being involved. Vashj is a bit of a step backwards, and for a deluxe figure, that's no good thing. Her size and capable sculpt makes her impressive, but a really good paint job, especially on the scales and bow, would've really made her something to behold; as is, she's big, but not really special.

-- 07/07/09


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