REVIEW: Dark Horse GAME OF THRONES Figure Series 1
Winter Is Here: Daenerys and Jon Snow Launch New Series...
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If you're not watching HBO's hit fantasy drama Game of Thrones, then you're missing out on one of the best shows on television. The series, gearing up for its fourth season this April, centers on an intricate power struggle for the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms. Unlike many TV series, Game of Thrones reels you in with its large cast of well-acted characters - so many in fact that several episodes can pass by before you see your favorite actor onscreen again. Game of Thrones also has the shocking habit of pulling the plug on major characters when you least expect it. Anyone is fair game in this brutally real fantasy world.
It's this revolving character roster that Dark Horse is tapping for their new series of Game of Thrones figures. Hitting retail now are the first two releases, Daenerys of House Targaryen and Jon Snow, a valiant steward in the Night's Watch. These two approximately 7 1/2 inch tall non-articulated figures are priced at a SRP of $24.99 each and available directly through Dark Horse, or fine retailers such as BigBadToyStore.com and ToyWiz.com.
Packaging for the pair is an elegant affair, the figures housed in fairly large (8" L x 4.5" W x 9" H) closed window box that allows clear viewing from the front and top. In case the figure didn't tip you off to who it is, the character's name is listed along the bottom and stills from the show are featured on the side panels. The latter is a rather bold move, the ability to compare the figure to the live actor a display of sculpting confidence on Dark Horse's part. The back panel shows off the figure again, this time as a photo, along with an interesting bio of the character inside. If you haven't seen Game of Thrones yet, start from the beginning. This is not a show you can pick up midway as each character transforms so rapidly. Daenerys' bio, for example, is accurate up to, oh, season one. A LOT has transpired since then. Overall, Dark Horse did an excellent job on the packaging presentation. The window box and art convey a more sophisticated collectible than your basic blister carded toy.
As mentioned in our interview with Dark Horse HERE, there are no immediate plans for Game of Thrones figure variants or exclusive. That's a shame, as Daenerys lends herself so well to multiple designs, the most obvious choice being a figure with newly hatched baby dragons. As is, Dark Horse chose a very pivotal look for the ruler of House Targaryen: Daenerys with her trio of precious dragon eggs. Her acquisition of the eggs is a major turning point for the character and is beautifully rendered here in plastic form. Daenerys stands 7 1/2 inches tall on her sandy base, an element that is permanently attached to the figure. While this may bother some who wish to display her in a different environment, I for one like it. The base for these figures not only provides solid stability, but they add more individual identity to each character. Like a statue, the environmental bases compliment the figures. And when was the last time you saw a figure even come with a base?
Dark Horse's Game of Thrones figures are not articulated, but in the case of Daenerys there is a sense of interaction via her accessories. Included are three approximately 1 inch long dragon eggs (brown, gray and green), as well as an opening treasure chest to place them in. Each item is well sculpted, the almost 2 inch long chest exceptionally so. The fact that it opens and closes is also a very nice touch for display variation, a feature Dark Horse could have easily omitted. With her hands cusped in front her, Daenerys invites you to place an egg of your choosing in her grasp. You can place the egg so it rests delicately on her finger tips, or you can slightly pry her hands apart for a more secure grip. The remaining eggs sit in one of three oval compartments within the chest - the option, as mentioned, to have the chest lid open or closed. The chest itself rests on a designated outline on the sand base. It's not a blatantly obvious spot, so if you decide to not have the chest on the base you can do so without an unsightly hole.
Sculpted by industry veteran Steve Kiwus and painted by Kat Sapene, Daenerys is a lovely figure to look at; no easy feat for a female figure on this scale. While I would have much preferred Daenerys with fully hatched dragons as accessories (because who doesn't like dragons?), the choice of dragon eggs works. They give Daenerys a caring, motherly charm - two traits essential to her character. Dark Horse picked an excellent character in Daenerys to launch the line with.
Like Daenerys, Jon Snow is another character you tend to root for on Game of Thrones. One of the "good guys" (because while it's pretty much every man for himself on the show, Joffrey is a prime example a "bad guy" if there ever was one), Jon Snow is the bastard son of the late Eddard Stark of Winterfell, his bastard status never allowing him a place of prominence in House Stark. As a result, Jon ventures north to become a steward in the Night's Watch, an order which guards the Seven Kingdoms. Within its ranks, Jon has found a place of acceptance where the circumstances of his birth are of little importance. The Jon Snow figure is sculpted to reflect his new Night's Watch position, the character ready to battle an unseen foe (White Walker?) in the snow. It's this powerful pose that makes this a terrific figure for display.
Also sculpted by Steve Kiwus and painted by Kat Sapene, the Jon Snow figure is mostly defined by his flowing winter wardrobe and his sword "Longclaw". The latter is cast as a separate plastic piece to avoid warping (one of my biggest weapon pet peeves). Simply plug the stiff blade into the pre-gripped handle. It's a snug connection, the sword nice and straight. Jon's outfit smartly combines a soft pliable plastic overcoat and skirt for a more realistic flow, the use of white paint on the edges giving the entire costume a worn wintery look. Like Daenerys, the head sculpt on Jon isn't a complete dead ringer, but at this scale it more than gets the job done. There's no denying who these characters are, even if you don't completely see actors Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke in there. Like Daenerys, Jon's non-removable base once again helps define the character with its simple but effective environmental depiction.
If there was one thing I would add to this figure, it would be Jon Snow's pet direwolf, Ghost. Like the environmental bases, the addition of defining creatures - such as Daenerys' hatched dragons and Jon's wolf - would really add that extra bit of display power to these figures. Additions like that cost more to produce, so I fully understand why they're not here, but it still doesn't stop me from wanting them. As is, Jon Snow is another excellent character choice to debut the Game of Thrones figure series with. With his battle-ready pose, he looks great on display. He'll look even nicer when Dark Horse gets around to releasing a White Walker.
Fans have been clamoring for Game of Thrones figures ever since the show debuted in 2011. Dark Horse has been working diligently almost that long on getting their extensive line to market. The end result is sure to please collectors seeking a sophisticated figure display, without breaking the bank on high-end statues. These are not articulated action figures, something I know many collectors are divided on. However, like any major license on the market - be it Star Wars, Marvel or DC - Game of Thrones has plenty of room for a variety of different figure formats. Dark Horse's Game of Thrones figures fill a perfect niche as attractively sculpted, nicely sized, no fuss display pieces - a display that is sure to look incredible as more characters are released... which won't be too long.
Arriving in May, with Game of Thrones Season 4 in full swing, fans will be treated to three new figures: Tyrion Lannister, Khal Drogo and Ned Stark. That's right, your Daenerys won't be alone too much longer. While characters may come and go on the television series, they can soon be forever immortalized in your toy collection.
All Photos By Jeff Saylor
Review Samples Courtesy of Dark Horse