Wednesday, 24 September 2014

DC Universe Classics: POWER STRUGGLE 2-pack -- SUPERMAN VS PARASITE (Part 2 of 2)

LINE: DC Universe Classics

YEAR: 2010

In my review of the other figure in this set, Superman, I explain in more detail how I ended up buying this 2-pack, so I won’t repeat them here. Suffice to say, I bought it for Supes and Parasite was a nice bonus.

Parasite is a villain I’m not terribly familiar with, beyond his appearance in Kingdom Come. Even there he’s not around for long, but his actions have some pretty serious repercussions for the rest of the story. However, Wikipedia tells me that Parasite has been plaguing Superman since the 1960s, and there have been a few different Parasites over the years. This particular figure, as you might guess from its 1990s/2000s stylings, is based on one of the more modern incarnations.
Parasite is dangerous because he can absorb energy from people – including superheroes – and use it as his own. While pretty handy in and of itself, it’s since been expanded on to include abilities like shapeshifting, absorbing memories from victims and other related paraphernalia. For a while he even posed as Lois Lane, and learned Superman's identity was Clark Kent.  

While normal people tend to die when Parasite drains their life force, Superman is turned into a regular, powerless human. The effects are temporary, but it means Parasite now has the powers of one of Earth's most powerful heroes -- you can see how that might be a problem.

This figure was originally released as part of the DC Superheroes line, a precursor line to DC Universe Classics. Like a few other DCSH figures, it got re-released as part of a multi-pack. The reasons for this are likely two-fold – one, to allow people that missed DCSH to get a Parasite, and two, to get some more use out of his moulds. I daresay there was an awful lot of unique (and therefore expensive) tooling that went into Parasite – about the only thing that looks reused from other figures is his crotch piece and possibly the “T” sections of his hips.   
Given that he was designed by the legendary Four Horsemen, it was pretty much a given that Parasite was going to have a fantastic sculpt. OAFE’s review specifically points to Ed McGuinness’ art as the jumping-off point, and I don’t know enough about the character to disagree. But it certainly makes sense; when this figure was first released c. 2006, McGuinness’ artwork was quite prominent, in part thanks to his work on the Superman/Batman series that was out at the time (which is well worth a read, I might add. It struck a good balance between the more serious and camp elements of both characters).

However, while McGuinness’ work is quite cool, it’s also quite cartoony. Some of that has been smoothed out in the transition to action figure form, making something that’s inherently silly (a purple monster in a white leotard) and giving it a convincing real-world look, while not losing its comic-y qualities. This is something that has been seen a lot in the Four Horsemen’s Masters of the Universe Classics -- a series I certainly can't afford to collect, but can certainly admire from afar.
His face reminds me of Flukeman from The X-Files, though Parasite is a bit toothier. Flukeman was also a parasitical creature, so this may not be accidental. Other touches have been added to increase his inhuman appearance too -- obviously there's the inhumanly muscular physique, but there's also his three-fingered, grasping hands, and his Ninja Turtles-looking feet. Then there's all the little notches carved all over his body -- these seem to be muscle detailing, but could just as easily be scars. There's some great attention to detail on this figure -- I love it!
Parasite's "correct" pose is slightly hunched over via the ab crunch and bent knees; stand him straight up and his head is looking directly to the sky. The only real downside about this is that it makes him a lot shorter than Superman -- I'm not sure whether this is comic accurate, but it does kind of feel like he should be bigger than Supes.

Articulation is more or less standard for the DCUC line, but it has been slightly modified due to his monstrous physique.

*cut neck
*ball-jointed shoulders

*swivel biceps
*hinged elbows

*cut wrists
*ab crunch

*cut waist
*t-hinged hips

*cut thighs
*hinged knees

*rocker ankles
His shoulders are a little loose, but not so much that they won't hold poses. Additionally, be careful when you're moving them around. I'm not sure if it happened in-box or after I'd opened it, but I noticed that a small chunk of plastic on the shoulder had actually been gouged out, presumably by the shoulder socket and the shoulder ball meeting at an angle they weren't meant to. You can make it out in this pic.

Parasite (and the two-pack as a whole) comes with no accessories, but I don’t think he’s known for any in particular.

Parasite is cast in purple plastic, with the appropriate details coloured in as necessary. They’re all very clean, with little to no slop. His eyes are yellow, and his teeth are actually painted with two different colours. The back row looks to be orange and yellow, with white on the top row -- then the whole thing's been given a glossy finish, as have his lips. It looks great!     

There’s also lots of black shadowing. For the most part this is well-done, and makes what could have been a purple lump of plastic look much less “toy-ish” than it otherwise might. There are a few areas where it’s a bit uneven, but no major issues. 
His white harness-style outfit has a couple of chips in the paint, and overall I think it has the problem that most white-over-dark-colour paints have – the brushstrokes show and as a result the colour isn’t quite flat and even. This is accentuated by there apparently being a black wash over the top in certain places too. But though it doesn’t exactly match with the box art, I still think it works for the most part. Having it all perfectly painted stark white would probably look a little odd in contrast to the more “realistic” paint detail that’s on him elsewhere.

The main issue I have with this set is that the two figures don’t gel with one another terribly well. Obviously the characters have a long history together, but there are some clear stylistic differences. The Superman in this set is elegant in his simplicity; the toy evokes the image of what most people think of when you say the word "Superman", irrespective of the era you originally knew him from.   
Parasite, by contrast, is covered in lots of little details which look awesome but also make him look like he’s from a completely different toyline. Add in the drastic difference in height and things are definitely accentuated. But I think a better pairing would have been 1990s long-haired Superman, as long as the Big Blue Boy Scout was painted with some heavier shadows.

But this doesn’t change that Parasite is a great figure on his own. Though the 1990s-esque vibe will switch some off and of course date it to a particular era, but it’s just a whole lot of fun, and a great monster toy in its own right. As something that I expected to get as an extra with Superman and simply sell on eBay, I’ve been thrilled with the outcome. The two figures in the Power Struggle 2-pack come highly recommended – maybe just not together.

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