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Skull Queen

Spawn Series 11: Dark Ages Sawn
by Artemis

Marlanda - the Skull Queen. She seeks to master the Dark Age making not only Camelot, but the world as her kingdom. To do this she must destroy The Black Knight and his Warriors of The Dark Age. She commands the Horde of Evil as well as an endless army of skeleton minions. Her beauty is matched only by her thirst for blood.

I'm fuzzy on the fine details of Spawn, so I couldn't tell you whether any of this junk actually happened in the comic, of if it just got made up to sell some toys. I'm pretty sure Spawnie isn't contemporary with Camelot, but maybe he's like the Witchblade, and pops up all over history. If that "Age of Pharaohs" stuff turns up in the comic, someone let me know, 'kay? Isis is well fit, I could put up with a lot of crap comics to see more of her.

Anyway, back before the Spawn toyline devolved into repaints of the same manga robot, then threw up its arms in dismay and left, you could be reliably confident of finding one homicidal nymphomaniac supermodel per series. Good times, sadly missed - the sports figures are no consolation, since there are no girls (and they're not real sports anyway, just gridiron and baseball and junk). Marlanda graced series 11, way back in 1998 - the same time Google was born, Jesse Ventura became a governor (one day you'll have the whole cast of Predator in office, don't give up hope), and I started using the PC I'm writing this review on. Yep, still running Windows 98; until Diablo III is released, there's no reason to upgrade anyway.

Marlanda's a good example of the early McStatue, typified by three basic qualities: refined sculpt (for the time), vestigial articulation still clinging on by its fingernails, and way too much random detail. The smart thing would've been to kit her out in bone armour, with a bit of dark, rich colour here and there for contrast, but no - they had to kit her out in every kind and colour of fabric known to mankind. If I tried to describe her outfit, it'd take up half the review, so let's just observe that she's an aesthetic disaster of leather, bone, steel, wool (there's some on her back), plates, bands, studs and wraps and leave it at that. None of it's symmetrical, and nothing really matches anything else she's wearing. Seriously guys, less is more. Luckily they finally learned their lesson, leading to more striking, less crowded figures like Isis and Mrs. Claus.

Mind you, I have to lay the lion's share of the blame at the feet of the paintwork, which isn't the fault of the original Skull Queen - this is a reissue of the figure, with an entirely new colour scheme, sorely lacking in cohesion. The first Marlanda sported a more focused palette, with the metals (including the segments painted as bone on this figure) all gold with inlaid turquoise, and the fabrics kept to a low-profile black that played down their chaotic mishmash of styles. Lesson? If it ain't broke, don't fix it. (If you're wondering why I have this one, then, it's because I wasn't collecting back when she came out originally, so I have to take what I can get, or just not have a Skull Queen at all.)

She's got a rather characterful face - later on McFarlane went through a phase where their zeal for physical realism produced a batch of bland-faced, albeit technically proficient, figures, before managing to combine that realism with a rediscovery of expressiveness. Marlanda... I'm getting tired of typing that every time, let's call her Mary... is a bit stylised and comicbook-y, although there's no denying she's finely detailed for a '98 figure, and the germ of the super-real McFarlane faces is there.

Her face itself isn't that out of the ordinary, for a villainess anyway, but she's got a neat haughty sneer going on - if you ever find yourself sending an undead army out to conquer the world, this is what you'll want to look like when you give the order to march. She has rooted copper hair, but just a ponytail's worth, not a full scalp - aside from it she's sporting a shaved head beneath the headdress.

Paint lets the face down, as it does the whole figure - not the choice of colours so much (although the use of two slightly different washes on the bone crest isn't the smartest decision), but just on a purely technical level. Her lipstick isn't quite on target, smearing a little to either side of her mouth, and her eyes aren't agreeing on which way she's looking, undermining the capable sculpt. Technical proficiency on the figure as a whole isn't what I'd hold McFarlane to nowadays - edges aren't quite covered, colours aren't invariably solid, and the washes giving various parts (mostly the bone) of her more definition suffer from inconsistency, either too much or too little paint fouling the sculpt instead of enhancing it.

Her articulation isn't quite the McStatue set yet, but she's getting there. She has a swivel neck, swivel shoulders and elbows, and V-hips. In short, all she can do is look from side to side, and turn her weapons this way and that - the legs are useless for posing, and given how top-heavy and unbalanced she is, you're lucky just to keep her standing upright.

To her credit, Mary's got a fair spread of accessories. The first is her "backpack," a bony wing thing with chains attached to the ends of the spines - it's attached by two rods that fit into her back, and is easily removable, though since her headdress looks silly without it bulking out the rest of her body, I imagine most people would leave it in place. Second is a humungous axe, 7" long, with an intricate bone decoration wrapped around the handle, topped by a bony critter leaning forward and clutching the blade in its talon-like fingers. The weapon is so gargantuan that there's no way Mary could wield it the traditional way, so it's got a little carry-handle attached to the shaft just beneath the axe-head - score one for medieval ergonomics. She also has a second axe, a kind of giant hatchet that fits in her hand the usual way - it's pure silver, and decorated with various gems and veins of metal, though with no black backing to these paint apps they look a bit shabby over the silver.

And since no evil witch would be complete without a flying monkey (I guess), Mary's got herself one, and gone the extra mile in personalising it as a flying skeletal monkey. He's a freaky looking little thing, with quite good paintwork - ironically, the best bonework on the whole figure - and a little axe of his own, a plainer, slimmer version of Mary's hatchet. Continuing the ergonomic theme, Skelemonkey has a convenient hook on his back, allowing him to be stored on the chains dangling from his boss's backpack.

She doesn't have a base, but both feet have peg holes in the toes - as I said the accessories make her wildly unstable, with that big, heavy axe in one hand and the monkey dangling randomly off to her side, so you'll want to either base her on a spare, or have her covertly leaning against something to remain standing. She stands 7" tall, though the top of that's her crest, and on the plus side, her 5½"-wide backpack, plus the mega-axe, gives her a decent physical presence.

I really do wish I'd been able to get the original colour scheme version of this figure - I've only seen the publicity shots of her, but her more subdued palette really enhances her sculpt. This version's a bit of a muddle, and to be honest the only reason I can say I'm not disappointed in her is that I got her cheap.


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