These ‘Saga’ Action Figures Are The Impossible Made Real [Review]
We got action figures based on Brian K. Vaughan's and Fiona Staples' Saga. Those are words I never thought I would write. Not that Saga isn't amazing and worthy of a line of toys, but it's a rarity for independent books like this to be immortalized in plastic. It's a lot cheaper to craft and sell pins and t-shirts than it is action figures or even statues (which Saga also has now), and the market for toys based on a property like this is often viewed as too small for the effort.
Thankfully, Skybound Entertainment and McFarlane Toys are willing to take risks on properties like Saga. Otherwise we probably never would have gotten such great toys for one of the best comics currently being published.
When it comes to comic book figures, McFarlane Toys has almost been singularly focused on The Walking Dead. From the original comic book figures to the television adaptation, the zombie-filled series has arguably the largest footprint in the McFarlane portfolio. The company has dabbled in other figures over the years, and is actually expanding its reach once again this year, but for the past few years, it's been rare for McFarlane (or any company really) to dabble in unproven licenses like Saga.
Obviously Saga has proven itself in print at comic shops, but it's still a fringe brand for something like action figures. The character designs are unique and amazing, which you would think would make it ripe for figure adaptation. One issue is Saga's world is so vast and varies so much issue to issue, there are but a handful of regulars you could say would make enough of a mark on fans to be worth all the effort of toy creation. Right at the top of that list would likely be Lying Cat, who already has a bit of collectibles all her own.
While Hazel is our Samantha Albertson-esque narrator, adult collectors don't typically buy action figures of babies or children. That whittles the immediately recognizable and desirable character choices down from the protagonist side quite a bit. Much as I would love Izabel to get a spot in the sun, that's a tough ask for a first figure in the line (if it does continue), and the same holds true of The Will. Even though Saga's story has expanded to include a rather substantial ensemble cast after nearly 40 issues, Alana and Marko are still arguably the stars, and thus the perfect choice for Saga's figural debut.
What I love about Fiona Staples' art is how deceptively detailed it is on the page. Unlike most traditional comic art, Staples uses her linework to shape the space that she then defines with her coloring. It works to great effect whether here on Saga, or on books like Archie and Mystery Society. It also helps her clean designs translate well to figure form. Like Staples' pages, the longer you observe these figures, the more fine points you can take in.
Marko has a bit more going on in his apparel, but that doesn't mean Alana lacks substantive sculpting. From head to toe, there's some real nice work done in bringing Alana to life. Her aesthetic is simple, but that's often something more difficult to capture correctly than it would if she was wearing a more elaborate outfit. Her portrait captures all the wonderful sharp angles that have so defined her on the page, and there's no mistaking this face for anyone else. They got the haircut right, which was as important as getting her wings correct. Early on, Alana's parted undercut was a signature look, and it still gives her some personality.
Everything isn't perfect for Alana, but if you've read the comic, you'll know that's par for the course. The joints are too visible and pull too much attention away from an otherwise well-made figure. The pins in her shoulders are massive (relatively to the rest of her body), and there's no hiding them with any clothing. At least the cuts in her hips are somewhat obscured by the paint app on her pants. Additionally, her two sets of wings (closed and open are included) are rather finicky when trying to keep them in place. The holes in her shoulder blades are just too tiny and the tabs on the wing attachments have trouble staying inserted.
Marko fares a bit better in the articulation department, at least insofar as his joints aren't quite as offensive to the eye. Both figures have about the same number of articulation points, though I did find Alana stayed in poses longer than Marko without tipping. It's usually the opposite when it comes to action figures, but this time around the female figure just had better balance to it. Maybe it's because she wasn't sculpted in awkward heels.
For the most part, Marko's sculpt is solid. For whatever reason though, McFarlane just transformed his layered jackets into one solid jacket. Instead of having a green hoodie beneath his brown coat, the green hood was just slapped onto the coat behind the collar. He's also got green sleeves poking out at the cuff, which doesn't make sense logistically based on the way the figure is sculpted. That said, the detailing in the wrinkling and the weathered paint job do look nice. It's just weird that there's a hood jutting out of nowhere on this jacket when even in the box art (based on the comic cover) the green hoodie is seen plain as day beneath it.
I'm less enthused with Marko's head sculpt than I am Alana's, as it looks a bit flat and generic compared to how he's portrayed in the book. Perhaps it's the blank stare that's giving him such a bland portrait. Marko's fairly expressive in the book, and his "all business" demeanor here, while accurate to the box art, isn't exactly how Marko is portrayed in the book. Sure, he's loyal and fierce when he needs to be, but this looks too much like every other generic hero head sculpt, except with horns and floppy ears. Figures like this need every advantage they can get to stand out from the crowd, even if they are exclusives made specifically for something like Comic-Con.
I never thought I'd see the day when a comic book like Saga actually got some action figures, but I'm very happy that McFarlane Toys and Skybound Entertainment were able to surprise me (and the rest of the fans). The figures aren't perfect, but this coupling isn't either, so it suits them to be just slightly abnormal. The only true downside to these figures is that it feels like a bit of a tease for a line that probably won't come to pass. Fleshing out the collection with the rest of Saga's memorable cast would be great to do someday, and I can only hope the sales of this set prompt some talks between Vaughan, Staples, and the toy teams to continue building up this line.
The McFarlane Toys Saga Alana and Marko set was available exclusively from Skybound at SDCC. This set was purchased for review.