Friday, 24 October 2014

Garruk Wildspeaker (Magic: The Gathering Funko POP!)

Many moons ago, I played quite a bit of Magic: The Gathering. For those who’ve never played it, it’s essentially a card game designed to appeal to the Dungeons and Dragons crowd. Fantasy creatures, wizardry and epic battles, all played out in card form. Running continuously since 1993, it’s been through numerous iterations and has near-bankrupted many a gamer with its regular release schedule – and as might be expected of a fantasy-based game, it’s generated a huge amount of lore and backstory.
Key to this lore are “Planeswalkers” – incredibly powerful wizards/beings who can move between different universes (or “planes” as they’re known in the game). Garruk here is one of these characters, and was originally aligned as a Green character, though apparently more recent events have seen him becoming corrupted and now he’s a Black-Green character, which is how this POP depicts him.

However, I can’t pretend to know a great deal about him. I am years upon years behind in the lore, and have no real interest in catching up these days. So I bought Garruk mainly as a generic fantasy guy, to serve as a fighter/barbarian style character – one who could be either a villain, or a hero. Bear in mind that he will be assessed as such.  

One of the main drawcards (ha!) of Magic: The Gathering is the often excellent artwork. Though it draws heavily from standard fantasy sources like Lord of the Rings and Dungeons and Dragons, since the early days it has been quite effective at putting its own subtle touches in to create a somewhat darker universe than might be expected.

But I think the game really began to find its own style around the time of the Urza series. It’s changed and evolved since then, of course, but to my amateur eye that’s when things really changed. Garruk is a prime example of this shift; he looks like he could have stepped out of any series between about 1999 and the present, possibly drawn by Kev Walker or Brom (though his first card was actually drawn by Aleksi Briclot). Naturally, this design approach will affect your enjoyment of the final product greatly.
While my own fantasy art tastes lean more towards Frank Frazetta or Michael Whelan, every now and then something from the modern era will really click with me -- Garruk here is one such example. He’s got lots of little details sculpted onto him; different layers of cloth, with bits of armour dotted around the place. In practical terms, this is accomplished by his body being split into two pieces at the waist. His cape/shawl is also a separate piece, and his tabard appears to be glued on separately too. When looked at closely, it’s not quite in line with the more simplistic aesthetic of earlier Funko POPs, but it’s executed nicely nonetheless.       

If you’ve read any of my previous Funko reviews (or bought any yourself for that matter), you will know that paint is regularly underwhelming for these guys. Well, what do you know – Garruk bucks that trend! He’s not perfect, but there has been a huge improvement in the paintwork, even since last year. I’m exceptionally pleased about this and hope that Funko continue the trend.

Garruk is somewhat out of place in my superhero-dominated POP collection, but he’s a fun addition nonetheless. The other Magic: The Gathering POPs are not really my cup of tea, but they have already announced a second series, and future additions to the line may yet grab me. And I can’t help but think that it wouldn’t take much to turn Garruk into a Dragonborn from Skyrim, either…

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