REVIEW: Kaustic Plastik 1:6 Roman Legionary VALERIUS
An Impressive Soldier of the Legio XIV Gemina...
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Every military collector has their favorite time period. I love many, including the high-tech weaponry of modern military, medieval knights and the samurai of feudal Japan. Most prevalent to this review is my strong interest in Ancient Rome. I used to pour over books as a kid and as an adult I was privileged to have spent two weeks in Rome. I love the wild, imaginative mythology, the brutal sport of gladiatorial combat and the awesome military might of the Roman Empire. I can't help but admire and respect a civilization that lasted for over 500 years and conquered most of the known world.
Kaustic Plastik is a new Italian 1:6 scale action figure company focused on the more "ancient" themes of Italy. Launching with a collection of Roman Gladiators (read our reviews HERE), Kaustic Plastik has since expanded their collectible roster to include the renowned soldiers of the ancient Roman Army. Roman Legionary Valerius of the Legio XIV Gemina marks the start of this exciting new endeavor. This now sold-out figure showcases Kaustic's keen attention to historic detail and the use of real metal helms and accessories crafted by artisan jewlers in Italy.
In addition to Valerius, Kaustic Plastik has produced a new range of 1:6 scale Roman Centurion Helms. Part of the Museum Collection, these all-metal helmets can be used as an impressive upgrade to Valerius or displayed by themselves on their included wood stands.
Every 1:6th scale figure company strives for the highest level of authenticity. It's something serious collectors look for - from the proper clothing and equippment the figure comes with to the placement of such mundane items as buttons and straps. I don't reside in that camp of collectors, the figure's overall good looks being enough for me. However, there's a lot to be said for such attention to detail. Aside from silencing the naysayers, it elevates the figure beyond just being a cool plaything to a plateau reserved for education and museums. Collectibles this accurate and real become historic replicas... that just so happen to still look cool.
Kaustic Plastik starts down that road of authenticity with Valerius' packaging. A fifth window box affair, the pack comes adorned with photos of the figure on all sides. The back provides some details, including Valerius' edition size (only 600 pieces worldwide - no wonder he quickly sold out!) and the use of real metal on his helmets and accessories. Flipping open the fifth panel is where our history lesson begins; Kaustic providing a fascinating account of Valerius, his XIV Legion and their invasion of Britain, circa 49 AD. While the figure is named Valerius, a very common name for the time, this doesn't appear to be a figure of any one particular soldier, but rather a faithful representation of one during that time period.
A faithful representation indeed. Valerius comes with a wealth of gear and accessories, all stowed on two plastic trays: one tray containing his shield and belt attached to the fifth panel by tape, the other containing the figure and weapons inside the box. The plastic tray holding the figure actually acts as the viewing window for the package. It's a practical, money saving approach but one that sort of cheapens the entire package. Velcro is used to close the fifth panel, and while I prefer the slicker use of hidden magnets, I'm all for it if it keeps the costs down. Valerius retailed for $124, an amazing value in the market of 1:6th scale figures.
After being overwhelmed by the figure and all the cool gear, the "fun" of dressing Valerius begins. I use the word fun loosely, as I'm really not fond of snapping straps and buckling belts on a scale this small. My fat fingers just aren't up to the challenge. Thankfully, dressing Valerius isn't as bad as some figures I've experienced in the past, Kaustic Plastik doing most of the work for you. First you'll have to buckle his ornate belt. Detailed with tiny etched plates, the belt also features dangling straps of brass studded leather groin armor and his sheathed dagger, or pugio. The dagger, like all of Valerius' weapons, is cast in real metal, as is the sheath and buckles attaching it to the belt. Lastly, there is a shoulder strap that holds his short sword (gladius) and sheath - again, both cast in real metal. Unlike threading the belt, the sword harness clasps together easily with a metal hook.
Most everything else on Valerius - from his leather sandals (caligae) to his awesome plated body armour (lorica segmentata - plastic with die-cast accents) - comes pre-attached to the figure. You'll note that the photo on the back of the box shows Valerius without his body armor. This is something I assume you can do with the figure, but I don't recommend doing it as the armor appears attached by a series of finely tied leather strings. The armor already on the figure fits and looks great, but I can only imagine the nightmare of getting it back on looking that way.
Valerius even includes an adjustable metal display stand already attached to his waist, beneath his armor. This makes placing on the rest of his gear - helmet, javelin and shield - easy and enjoyable. The stand appears to clip around Valerius' waist, though I have not tried to remove it. I'm perfectly happy where it's at, as I'm sure many collectors will be too. With belts on and the display stand holding Valerius up nice and steady, what to do with Valerius next is entirely up to you. The figure includes a red cloth cape that I think looks stunning on. There's also his javelin (pilum - metal and plastic construction) and shield (scutum - plastic) for a variety of display poses. An extra closed javelin hand is included for a firmer grip so you can have Valerius thrusting or throwing the weapon, though the pre-attached right hand with a more open grip is nice for posing Valerius standing there at guard. An open left hand is included as well, though I much prefer the more pointing pre-attached hand for dealing with his cool shield. The shield you can have Valerius holding, or placed on the ground with Valerius' hand resting on top (my favorite look).
This brings me to one small complaint: Swapping hands is a bit of a struggle. Thankfully the posts are pretty strong, but getting that post in the tight hand hole can be tricky. My advice? Use a hair dryer to soften the plastic on the hand before putting it on. The rest of Valerius' underlying body, from what I can tell, is a pretty good buck. I'm not an expert on 1:6th scale bodies, but I've dealt with my share, such as Hot Toys, ACI, and Enterbay. Kaustic Plastik falls right in with that bunch as far as featuring a realistic range of movement and the figure holding its poses well. Unlike the old days of 1:6th scale collecting, I think the market has reached a point where most all 12-inch bucks are a good quality and it really comes down to personal preference. The head sculpt on Valerius is also top notch. It's an extremely realistic, strong portrait brought to life by some fine paint work. I particularily like how the eyes are glossy and "wet". Very lifelike.
Speaking of head sculpts, there's one last optional piece of gear to put on Valerius: His helmet. Included are not one, but TWO real metal helmets: a dark bronze Roman Coolus and a more silver Imperial Gallic Helmet. Both of these exteremly detailed helmets (even the side flaps are articulated!) fit and look amazing on the figure. The fact that they are each constructed of metal is astonishing. Not only does the metal give the helmets a more authentic look and feel, but they carry a really nice heft. I should note that each helmet also features a thin piece of string that treads around the interior. This is so you can actually tie the helmet around Valerius' chin. Again, my thick fingers are incapable of that action, thus the string has been removed from my helmets. Still, it is there for those willing to try... another authentic detail from Kaustic Plastik.
There is also technically a third helmet - a die-cast Thames Helm - though I should strongly point out that this is NOT to be worn by Valerius. A bonus accessory, the horned helm is that of a fallen British enemy and is included as a kind of "Trophy of War".
For those looking to promote Valerius to the rank of Roman Centurion, Kaustic Plastick has also released two additional helmets as part of their Museum Collection: a dark bronze Italic Imperial Centurion Helm and a regal silver and gold Imperial Gallic Centurion Helm. Sold separately at $40 each, these helmets are similar in design to those included with the figure except that they feature more ornate detailing and most noticeable, a huge red plume. Each helmet also includes a wooden stand, a very nice touch that allows you to display these as collectibles all on their own - which they are - each helm is simply a work of art.
If I had one thing to criticize it would be the softer, more fragile metal used to secure the plume and cheek plates on. The side plates are secured by a small hinge, and while they do swing open, care should be taken as to not splay them too far out. One of mine accidentally came off that way - partly because of carelessness, partly due to the weak solder. The plumes, as you can see, are only held on by a small metal post. This too can easily break, so be carfeul when handling. A little toughening up at these fragile connections and Kaustic Plastik has some real winners on their hands. As is, they look phenomenal, but handle with caution.
Kaustic Plastik has big plans in 2013 for their 1:6 Roman Army with at least FIVE (5) new figures planned. They won't tell me what they are just yet, but I should have an announcement for you very soon. If Valerius is any indication, Kaustic Plastik's future Roman figures are going to be phenomenal. While I love modern military and WWII just like the next collector, those markets are way oversaturated. Kaustic brings to the table a time period that's fresh and exciting, their 1:6 Roman Legionary Valerius brimming with cool historic authenticity and packing loads of value. As stated, Valerius retailed for $124.99 through Cotswold Collectibles, the U.S. distributor for Kaustic Plastik. While he quickly sold-out, there is a "Wait List" you can get on. $124.99 for any 1:6th scale figure these days is remarkable, but for one that includes real metal accessories and three real metal helmets is unheard of. Kaustic Plastik's Museum Collection is also off to a fine start. The helmets are extremely nice and the prospect of turning Valerius into a Roman Centurion is very appealing. However, $40 each is sort of pushing it. When you figure that Valerius, at $124.99, came with three metal helmets... the individual helmets just don't add up in value. The Museum Collection is in-stock now at Cotswold as well as directly through Kaustic Plastik.
All Photos by Jeff Saylor
Review Samples Courtesy of Kaustic Plastik