REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE SIGNATURE SERIES SAINT WALKER
I'm not sure how close it really was, but thank goodness, the DC Universe Signature Series available online at MattyCollector.Com was renewed for 2013. Given the "New 52" emphasis of the non-Matty "DC Unlimited" line, I am abundantly pleased that characters from the proper DC Universe are still being produced and offered as high-quality action figures somewhere -- even if the packaging now has that horribly ugly new DC logo on it.
I'm especially pleased that the line was renewed -- may it continue to be for many years to come -- seeing as how the first figure out of the blocks for the new year was none other than SAINT WALKER, first and most prominent of the BLUE LANTERNS.
Now, a few of you might be asking, "Blue Lanterns? What are Blue Lanterns? We've heard of Green Lanterns, but Blue Lanterns?" And, sorry to say this, but if you're asking that, then you really haven't been paying much attention to Green Lantern's corner of the DC Universe the past several years, and as such, you've missed out on some of the most epic, cosmic-level stories seen in DC in years.
Let's consider the history of Saint Walker of the Blue Lantern Corps, and then have a look at this new action figure of this fascinating character.
Created by writer Geoff Johns and artist Ethan Van Sciver, Saint Walker is an alien member of the intergalactic Blue Lantern Corps, an organization dedicated to spreading peace and harmony through the power of hope throughout the universe.
Bro'Dee Walker was a priest on his home planet of Astonia, with a wife and two children, which was doomed, as its ancient sun was dying.
Walker takes his family on a quest to reach safety, and to reach a high point on a mountain where he believes there may be a solution to his planet's problems. Tragically, along the way, his family falls victim to one disaster after another. Finally alone and seemingly without hope, Walker reaches the summit of the mountain, only to discover no real answers, and he lashes out in frustration and anger.
Refusing to give up, though, and returning to his home, Saint Walker manages to calm his despairing people and give them hope in the face of extinction, which causes a Blue Lantern ring to choose him as a member of the Blue Lantern Corps, stating that he "has the ability to instill great hope". With his ring, he sets his sun's age back 8.9 million years, thereby saving his home planet.
Saint Walker and his fellow Blue Lanterns are first introduced in the midst of the Final Crisis event as part of the build-up to the Blackest Night storyline. During the Final Crisis, Hal Jordan and John Stewart of the Green Lantern Corps have just been ambushed by the Red Lantern Corps, who take the rogue former Green Lantern Sinestro from their custody. After Jordan is injured during the conflict, his wounds are healed when he first comes into contact with Saint Walker.
In the Blackest Night storyline, having joined Hal Jordan's and Indigo-1's efforts to rally one member of each Corps to attempt to destroy the Black Lantern power battery, Saint Walker agrees to use his power ring to ease Larfleeze's hunger while they work together. When deputizing an Earth hero to assist in the current crisis until the rest of the Blue Lantern Corps can arrive, Walker's ring selects Barry Allen as a temporary Blue Lantern. After Nekron is defeated, Walker works with Carol Ferris to heal Mera of the influence of her red power ring.
In Justice League of America #55, the character joins the League for a time -- a rather eclectic group at the time, in battling Eclipso, and attempts to assist the resurrected Hank Henshaw against Doomsday on Batman's orders.
In the War of the Green Lanterns storyline, Saint Walker and the rest of the New Guardians make their way to the planet Ryut. Krona and the Emotional Entities are nowhere to be found but the group does come upon the Book of the Black. When former Sinestro Corps member Lyssa Drak appears, she quickly subdues the New Guardians, trapping all but Hal in the Book of the Black. Hal escapes with the rings of the New Guardians, later passing Walker's ring on to Kyle Rayner when Krona infects the Central Power Battery with Parallax to bring the Green Lantern Corps under his influence. In the final battle Saint Walker is freed from the book by Kyle, his blue ring returns to him and the Guardians of the Universe then teleport him back to Odym. Afterwards, Saint Walker returns to Oa to restore Ganthet's missing hand.
In the New 52 series Green Lantern: New Guardians -- the Green Lantern part of the DC Universe being the least affected by the company-wide overhaul for a time -- Saint Walker assisted Kyle Rayner when he became a "magnet" for other power rings, helping Kyle escape the attacks of the other four Corps members who had tracked the rings. They travel to Oa to try and seek the aid of the Guardians. Unfortunately, this plan backfires when it is revealed that Ganthet has been stripped of his emotions by the other Guardians, when Walker tries to help Kyle directly after he is briefly overwhelmed by the rings. Ganthet proclaims that the Blue Lantern Corps were a mistake that he will now rectify.
After they are forced to escape the Guardians, Walker heals Arkillo's severed tongue using an illusion of Sinestro. However, in the subsequent confrontation with Invictus, Walker is unable to heal Invictus' anger at the Lanterns, although his actions do help Invictus see that the Lanterns are not completely tainted.
Returning to Odym to regroup after Invictus releases the New Guardians only if they agree to kill Larfleeze, Walker learns that Odym is being attacked by the Reach, enemies of all ring-wielders, forcing him to call the other New Guardians for help when he attempts to teach the other Blue Lanterns how to channel their auras to increase their offensive capabilities so that they can fight on their own.
Although he and the other New Guardians aid Kyle against Invictus, the team splits up after learning that Guardian Sayd was responsible for drawing the rings to Kyle as part of a plan to assemble a team to save Ganthet, feeling that her actions have tainted the team before it began, regardless of her motives in bringing them together.
As to his powers and abilities, Saint Walker possesses a blue power ring which is fueled by the emotion of hope. While hope is stated to be the most powerful of the seven emotions, he must be near an active Green Lantern's power ring to tap into his own ring's full power. Otherwise, the rings are only capable of the default abilities of flight and a protective aura. This is due to the fact that the power of hope is nothing without the willpower to act on it. Blue rings must be fueled by true hope in order to operate at their users' command.
While under the influence of a nearby green power ring, Saint Walker can heal wounds. The ring's power can be supplemented with the hope of other living beings; for instance, Saint Walker and Warth were able to reduce a dying sun's age by 8.6 billion years because of the hope emanating from the inhabitants of a nearby planet. A blue ring can negatively impact the performance of rings on the opposite side of the emotional spectrum, especially red and yellow.
As the first and most experienced Blue Lantern, Walker has shown the ability to channel his aura to increase his strength and hold his own in a fight against some adversaries, although his powers are limited to simply strengthening his force field to a greater density around himself, and he still requires a Green Lantern to be present to actually generate constructs.
As with Green Lanterns, the Blue Lanterns must charge their power rings with a lantern-like battery tied in to the main power battery on Odym. The Blue Lantern oath, having the same rhyming meter as the Green Lantern Oath, is as follows: "In fearful day, in raging night, With strong hearts full, our souls ignite, When all seems lost in the War of Light, Look to the stars -- For hope burns bright!"
Saint Walker has appeared in several episodes of the excellent Green Lantern Animated Series, appearing on Mogo in the first season, and on Odym in the second, alongside Ganthet and another Blue Lantern named Brother Warth, who has also appeared in the comic books.
So, how's the figure? Really outstanding, especially when you consider that I'm reasonably certain that this is an entirely new figure. In other words, I don't think he uses any established body molds.
Although Saint Walker is humanoid, he's not human. His face is definitely not human. Saint Walker's skin is white, and his head is hairless, and has a long tentacle stretching outward from the back of his skull. This has clearly been shown to be highly flexible in the character's appearances, although it doesn't appear to serve any practical function. It's not, for example, prehensile.
Saint Walker's facial features are unusual. He has a rather narrow face, with small black dots for eyes, no apparent nose (for all I know, he breathes through this appendage on the back of his head), and a relatively small mouth. There's a degree to which it could be argued that he's rather plain-featured. How much of his basic face was a challenge to the sculptors I really don't know, although I would think the tentacle gave them something to think about. Saint Walker has been given a mouth that's slightly upturned on one side. I have no real idea why.
His eyes and mouth have been neatly painted. I find myself somewhat tempted to go over the eyes with glossy black, just to give them a shiny finish, but that would be a personal customization, and not something I'm generally recommending. The eyes look fine as they are, of course.
Although the basics of Saint Walker's head seem somewhat plain, there is some extensive and intricate detail to be found. Saint Walker has these narrow, ridged lines rising up on his face and head, and they extend all the way down the tentacle. These are very precise in detail, and likely did present an interesting challenge to the sculptors. They've been very well done.
As to what they actually are, I have no idea. Some sort of natural characteristic, the way Klingons have ridges on their foreheads, or Skrulls have ridged chins? They almost look ornamental, or perhaps ceremonial. To date, there's been no specific explanation of them of which I am aware.
The rest of Saint Walker's body is more human in appearance, in that his overall physicality is a reasonable match for human norms -- except that from a super-hero physique standpoint, he's a bit taller and noticeably more slender than average. Here is where I think a distinctive body had to be brought into play. He's not as emaciated-looking as, for example, the Deadman figure. And there's a year stamped on his back that would indicate the body was designed in 2011. That's relatively recent.
Here's a little speculation on my part. A fair portion of this body would also work for a second alien Lantern -- Larfleeze, the Orange Lantern. Now, Larfleeze has a different head, and would also require different arms, and certainly his own head, but the overall basics of the body -- human-looking-but-slender -- would be a match. Larfleeze was intended to be released as part of a last DC Universe Classics retail assortment, dubbed "All-Stars", before that final assortment was overhauled to throw in a couple of "New 52" figures, and Larfleeze was dropped from it. He's since, thankfully, been moved into the Signature Series as a forthcoming figure as of this writing.
However, it's likely that the body molds for Larfleeze were created and ready to go such that they could well have been given a 2011 production date. And when it was decided to add Saint Walker to the mix, a second use for the body molds, certain necessary distinctive parts notwithstanding, resulted, which would also be good for Mattel, getting more than one use out of an expensive set of molds.
This is all speculation on my part, and will have to wait until I have Larfleeze in hand to make a comparison. In any case, Mattel should be commended for creating an appropriate body for Saint Walker, certainly.
Saint Walker is very slightly taller than most of the male heroes in the line, but this is not inappropriate. He has a good overall musculature, despite his more slender build. His hands have only three fingers and a thumb each, with rather long fingers and notably long thumbs. His left hand is open, and his right hand is clenched in a fist, wearing the Blue Lantern ring.
Of course, Saint Walker is wearing a Blue Lantern uniform. Much like a Green Lantern uniform, the costume consists of a large amount of black, blended with the appropriate color, which in this case is a deep blue. The patterning is somewhat different than a typical Green Lantern, however (although that's a rather vague term given the individuality of costumes found in both Corps).
The mid-arms, sides, and upper legs of Saint Walker's costume are black, as is part of the collar area. The very top of the collar, front and back of the torso, lower arms, and very high boots are blue. There's a certain amount of metallic blue trim, around the lower arms, and the collar. Saint Walker is not wearing gloves.
The Blue Lantern emblem appears in the center of the chest, outlined in white against a black background. Saint Walker also comes with a Blue Lantern battery as an accessory.
Any complaints? Just two. First of all, the Blue Lantern emblem is just a little -- off. The center circle needs to be a bit larger. This surprised me, given that this isn't the first figure to wear a full Blue Lantern emblem. That honor goes to a Blue Lantern version of Kyle Rayner, that was sold in a two-pack with a Sinestro Corps version of Hal Jordan. Although that two-pack was reportedly not produced, it later did turn up in some rather unusual places -- like Canada, and certain clearance stores in the United States. On Rayner, they got the emblem right. So why couldn't it be carried over?
I've noticed that there have been a few minor but noticeable quality issues with the DC Signature Series lately. The Metal Men figure of Platinum had some issues with the triangular "tunic" on the front of her costume. Now a slightly off emblem on the one figure wearing it that should've gotten it right. Mattel, you need to pay attention to this sort of thing. These figures are way too impressive -- AND expensive -- to let this sort of thing happen.
My other complaint is with the articulation. Saint Walker, given the new body sculpt, has been saddled with the double-articulated knees and elbows. This just isn't necessary -- on ANY action figure from ANY line made by ANY company, and I have yet to see any on which it looks good or works well. The only advantage Saint Walker has is that his costume is comprised of rather dark colors, so it's not as obvious. This articulation stunt pretty much ruined the figures of The Creeper and the classic Robin a while back, in part because they boasted much lighter color schemes.
Look, don't get me wrong. I'm sincerely delighted to have Saint Walker. And I'm really looking forward to Larfleeze. I'd like to think we might get Indigo-1 at some point, and round off the main representatives of all of the various-colored Lantern corps, since we already have Sinestro, Atrocitus, and Star Sapphire. But this double-articulation nonsense every time a new body is crafted -- an admittedly rare occurrence these days -- needs to STOP!
That said, I can't argue with the overall level of articulation on the figure. Saint Walker is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. I'm not entirely sure if the tentacle is articulated.
So, what's my final word? Okay, I'm quibbling a bit on the emblem. On the whole, this is an extremely impressive figure, hailing from, I'll readily admit, my favorite part of the DC Universe, so I'm especially delighted to see him. But he's still extremely impressive. The headsculpt is superb, the body design is just right to the character, and the overall costume details are just as they should be, and very neatly painted.
For my money, Saint Walker and Larfleeze are two of the real treats of the 2013 lineup of MattyCollector.Com's DC Universe Signature Series, and starting off the year with Saint Walker was a very nice way to go. If you enjoyed Saint Walker's presence in the Green Lantern titles, you will unquestionably want to have this superb figure of him. I promise you'll enjoy him. I certainly do.
The DC UNIVERSE SIGNATURE SERIES figure of SAINT WALKER from the BLUE LANTERN CORPS definitely has my highest recommendation!