It's difficult to name a company that's been through more identity shifts than Mirage Toys. Formed as WB Toys, they became N2 before their first series of Matrix figures shipped. N2 limped along until they released toys based on the criminally short-lived Tick series, which were alleged to have been so poorly received that the company had to change its name again, this time to Mirage.
The first Matrix figures were good for their time, offering so-so sculpts with decent articulation and accessories. As time progressed, however, the company seemed to get worse and worse, from Road Warrior to "Hardened" (think "Movie Maniacs" without the skill) to The Tick. Could a name change really change anything that mattered?
Mirage's first effort, Kingdom Hearts, turned out very well. Its second, South Park, did not. So the prospects for their next effort, based on the hit tv show Alias, were still questionable. Three figures were announced for the first wave: Sydney in a blonde wig and tight blue dress, and a two-pack of Miss Bristow and her handler, Agent Vaughn.
The first problem with the two-pack figures is right on the box. The packaging lists them as being from the episode "The Coup," though neither of them wore anything even remotely similar until the Season 1 finale "Almost 30 Years."
That's not a big problem with the toys, but hints at a general lack of attention to detail.
Sydney is rocking the semi-punk look in this figure: black high heels, leather pants, a mesh top over a black bra and a few studded leather bracelets. The sculpt is quite good, right down to the rings on her fingers and the bells on her toes. Okay, no toes, but she's still good. Pretty confident pose, too; this is much better than most of the N2/Mirage stuff.
Mirage's answer to sculpting Syd's see-through shirt is a pretty clever one: sculpt the hems, then paint between them with a complicated gray-black speckle pattern. It gives the impression of a fine mesh without having to actually create a shirt. Of course, it does make it look as if her bra is on over the shirt, but no great loss.
Vaughn, in his full-length coat ("full length," my butt; it's dragging the floor, which means the costume designer put him in a coat too tall for him) looks generic enough that he might actually be an old Neo body that was still lying around from the N2 days. Black shoes, black pants, black shirt, black coat. Meh. At least the blacks don't all blend together. What's that? They do? Oh.
Even his pose is dull. He sort of looks like he's walking, but not really. It's kind of like when the Egyptians first figured out how to give their statues that forward-striding look by slightly moving one leg. His right arm hangs limp at his side, while his left is bent slightly. The pose could have been redeemed with a few nice accessories (say, a briefcase and gun) but we get nothing. Crud.
The likenesses are, well, not so good. Better than N2's Matrix, to be sure, and a bit better than the Tick, but still not superb. We're not looking at ToyBiz's LotR level of quality by any means. More along the line of McToys' "Travoltanator," y'savvy? Sydney looks too skinny and mannish beneath her blue hair, but that's definitely Jennifer Garner - pop her head on an Elektra figure and you're half way to a companion for your ML3 Daredevil. The inside corners of her eyes are a bit too sunken into her face, which also has the effect of adding to her gaunt look. Pull her hair back, though, and you'll see some of the best ears ever. Seriously, I'm not kidding - they're good.
Vaughn is a bit worse; the sculptors certainly captured Michael Vartan's concerned/confused look well, but the proportions are off. Human eyes are about half way down the face, while plastic Vaughn's are little more than a third. Plus, Vaughn's magnificent tallhair has been mashed down a bit, too, which doesn't help offset the squished head. Wrinkly forehead's nice, though. Take a look at the photoshopped versions of the headshots here to see how the sculpts might have been improved with a little care.
All the problems Poe blasted N2 for are still here in Mirage's work, and I can't say I'm not disappointed. Both figures move only at the shoulders and neck, which is far too little for action heroes - if we blasted McFarlane's Matrix figures for that problem, we're certainly not going to forgive anyone else.
So. No articulation, no accessories, and fully mediocre sculpts. Yet you know what? I dig 'em. I'm glad we got Alias figures and I'm glad they're as good as they are. Could they have been better? Yes, much. But they could have been a lot worse, too.
How does WB/N2/Mirage keep landing these big licenses? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.