Creativity abounds at Toy Fair every year, but you can always count on Square Enix to show up with some of the most clever and inspired action figures. Though they might not have the volume output of some of the larger companies at the show, Square Enix certainly brings the quality. This year was no exception with a couple of great new Marvel Variants planned, as well as even more Tetsuya Nomura DC Comics designs.
Square Enix Play Arts
Though he might not get the headlines like Joker or invite as much interest as Catwoman, Mr. Freeze is easily one of Batman's most fascinating rogues. The character's been the focus of some of the best episodes of the animated series, at the center of some of the best video game missions, and has had some rather amazing designs over the years. With its latest Batman: Rogues Gallery figure, Square Enix turns its eyes to the often overlooked villain, and gives him a new look that's quite remarkable.
Sometimes, you just need a little Deadpool to get through the day. Would that we could all be so sardonically charming as Wade Wilson in real life. Alas, we can always live vicariously through his adventures in print and on screen. For those of us who also thrive on action figures, there are also plenty of options when it comes to the mouthy mercenary. In fact, it's a bit of a challenge to find new ways to be excited about Deadpool toys, as so many are just so similar.
That doesn't stop companies from giving it their best efforts though. As we can see with Square Enix's latest Marvel Variant for Deadpool, there's still some mileage to get out of that very familiar red and black suit.
After a whirlwind year of big reveals, New York Comic Con is typically a chill place for new toy and action figure announcements. It being wedged between San Diego Comic-Con and Toy Fair means there are usually slim pickings when it comes to new goods, but Square Enix had a few tricks up its sleeve at this year's show that are sure to make comic fans... curious.
With the success of the DC and Marvel Variant lines of the Play Arts brand, Square Enix has defined its own corner of those universes. The highly detailed figures get a bit of a bump in the roster this year, at least on the Marvel front. When it comes to DC, all the attention is on Batman.
Like any other company with a license for DC Comics characters, Batman and his family have been a big draw at Play Arts. There have been a number of new takes on the character, from Spartan soldiers to futuristic interpretations, but Square Enix's latest attempts spin Batman in a more familiar direction --- that of his rogues. Things kick off with a Two-Face mash-up, and I can tell you this: The world is full of Batman toys, but there aren't many like this one.
While Square Enix didn't have a tremendous amount of new figures and collectibles on display at San Diego Comic-Con this year, the company did unveil a new wave of figures for its DC Comics Variant line. Originally filled with the heroes and villains of the DCU in designs that filtered them through Square's trademark Play Arts style, this latest wave took things to a whole new level.
Dubbed Batman: Rogues Gallery, this latest twist on the Dark Knight gives us a glimpse at what he'd look like if some of Batman's greatest enemies donned the cape and cowl instead. It's a line that lets Square's design team really go wild, which you can clearly see with the first figure in the wave, Two-Face.
There are few action figures on the market that have as unique an aesthetic as Square Enix Play Arts. While the company does make some fairly faithful recreations of video game, movie and comic book characters, the Variants portion really pushes the boundaries of these characters. Some have maybe diverted too far from the beaten path, but Square's willingness to experiment and give us versions of Spider-Man and Batman that we'd likely never have seen otherwise is what makes them such an interesting company.
There weren't very many new Variants on hand at San Diego Comic-Con this year, as it was a fairly light showing overall for Square Enix, but the new Deadpool and Wolverine joining the existing Avengers and Spider-Man look nice in prototype form. Where Square really made a statement though was in the new Variant Batman Rogues. These mash-ups mix Batman and a foe together to deliver a whole new character, only filtered through that trademark Square Enix lens.
Considering how many different shows Square Enix participates in, it's a wonder there were any new figures on display at this year's New York Comic Con. Fortunately for all, the Play Arts line saw some strong new additions this week, with the 2016 Warner Brothers' tentpole Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice getting the most attention. We had seen the standard Superman and Batman figures back at SDCC, but here we got looks at the prototypes for a second Batman figure and what could be the best Wonder Woman Square has ever done.
Seriously, Square Enix has dipped the toy quill in the DC Comics fountain before, and the Variant Wonder Woman, while true to Play Arts' style, wasn't exactly the strongest representation of the character. This new iteration, based on Gal Gadot's take on the iconic Amazonian, is incredibly detailed, but more importantly, it's spot-on, unembellished sculpt is the perfect counterpoint to the previous attempt. The articulation is impressive as always, but the real draw comes from that attention to detail Square has been stepping up over the course of the last year. The company's been working with a slightly larger scale than it was in the past, and though it means more expensive figures, it also means way more nuance for each figure.
Legendary hero Captain America has gone through more than his fair share of costume revisions over the years. Some have been more well-received than others, but the man has always stayed true to the core concept designed by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. It's hard to argue with the classic stars and bars. In fact, it's so hard to argue with the good ol' red, white and blue, even Cap's most radical revamps have incorporated the scheme because it's impossible to top. That even holds true when other characters that have suited up under the guise of the Captain like Bucky and Sam Wilson.
I thought for sure that Square Enix would take the character through some unexplored territory with its upcoming Play Arts Marvel Variant version, but even the talented team there found that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. While the Square Enix version of Captain America is immediately recognizable, it lacks much of that trademark Play Arts touch. It's not the most outrageous armored Avenger we've ever seen, and that oddly makes it kind of a boring figure.
I'll admit, when Square Enix hinted the Black Widow would be joining its Marvel Variants line, I was a bit concerned. The Variants line is filled with some fairly radical redesigns of familiar characters, and some of the artistic choices made for the DC Variants line's female figures left little to the imagination. However, once I saw the prototype at SDCC this year, I was actually excited to see the final version. The Black Widow on display there wasn't quite as massive a departure as some previous Variants figures had been, and showed a lot of unpainted promise for the final release.
This week, Square revealed the fully-painted prototype, and the images (courtesy of ToyArk) show off a Black Widow that's actually really close to her comic book counterpart. Only Iron Man, Spider-Man, Venom and Thor have been shown off in this form to this point. Each of those is still immediately recognizable, but share some influences that are instantly noticeable as Play Arts style. The new Black Widow, while proportionately rocking some Taylor Swift legs, doesn't appear to look that drastically different from iterations of her design that we've seen in her comic book past.