Hey all, welcome back to Dan's ToyBox. Today we're looking at a figure that's been out for some time and I'm finally getting around to reviewing it. The Medicom Mafex #144 Knightfall Batman (or more commonly referred to as Az-Bats.) This has been a very popular figure since it was released and though I do like it, unfortunately, I have a number of concerns, which disappoints me greatly. There is a moment of pain when something you have been excited about doesn't live up to expectations and this is one of those times.
In the 1990's, writers at DC decided to give the readers something they'd been clamoring for; a darker, edgier Batman. Then came... Knightfall.
Introduced in the "Sword of Azrael"mini-series, Jean-Paul Valley has been trained and brainwashed via "The System" by the Order of St. Dumas since he was a child. While in college, Valley hears something at his apartment door and discovers his father, wearing the garb of Azrael the Avenging Angel, mortally wounded. His father reveals that Jean-Paul must now take up the heritage and carry on the lineage of Azrael and become the new avenging angel. Through the course of this story, Valley would end up rescuing Bruce Wayne and soon, fight alongside the hero, while undergoing more training with Tim Drake's Robin. Jean-Paul would soon find himself taking on an even greater role as the events of Knightfall leave Bruce Wayne broken, physically, by the villain Bane. Wayne passes on the mantle of the Bat to Jean-Paul Valley, leaving Gotham in his care. However, "The System" is not so quick to relinquish its hold on the young man and soon the stress of being Gotham's Dark Knight and fulfilling his mission as Azrael begin to take their toll. Valley becomes more brutal and dangerous, changing the Batman costume into an armored caricature, somewhere between the look of the bat and Azrael. Valley eventually pursues and defeats Bane, kicks Robin out of the batcave, and becomes everything that Batman isn't. So much to the point that in his pursuit of Abattoir, Valley not only allows the villain to die, but in so doing, unknowingly allows Abattoir's last victim to perish as well. Had he rescued Abattoir, he might have learned of the victim and got there in time to save the man. When Bruce Wayne, now fully healed, returns to Gotham, his intention of staying retired is thwarted when he learns of the brutal new Batman he left in charge. Can Wayne reclaim the mantle of the Bat or will Jean-Paul Valley add a new victim to his list of brutalities? If you've never read the Knightfall series or the follow ups: KnightQuest and Knight's End I definitely recommend finding them in graphic novel format. Next to "The Dark Knight Returns" the Knightfall saga remains one of my favorite Batman tales of all time. Jean-Paul Valley was created by: Joe Quesada, Denny O'Neill, and Peter Milligan. He first appeared as Azrael in "Batman: Sword of Azrael" #1, October 1992 and then as Batman in Batman #489, February 1993.
For my new readers, Dan's ToyBox uses four categories to review: Accessories, Appearance, Articulation, and Affordability. After discussing each and reviewing the overall score assigned, we then give the figure a final score of zero to 10 ToyBoxes. Zero, of course, being the absolute worst and 10 being a "must add" to your collection. Naturally, this is all based on my opinion, but I try to be as objective as possible in order to give you the best information I can to help you decide if a figure is worth spending your own money on. So, let's jump into it!
Medicom Mafex generally crushes it with accessories. Sadly, not so much with this figure. Az-Bats comes with four sets of hands: 1 fisted pair, 1 open, 1 relaxed, and 1 gripping pair. He comes with his grapnel on a thin wire, which is actually flexible, but just be careful with it. He comes with an unmasked Jean-Paul Valley head, two "firing shuriken" effects, and the standard Mafex display stand. I must confess that I was a bit disappointed because Mafex usually has a lot of stuff with their figures. It's still more than you get with other companies, which is a saving grace, but not enough to give more than a score of 6 out of 10.
Images © Dan's ToyBox 2023
At first glance, this is an incredibly well-done rendition of the character. Upon closer inspection though, there were quite a few problems I had with mine. Right at the top of his cowl, and you can see it in the picture above, there are scratches on the paint. I have metallic blue paint, but it's darker and even trying to mix it with white, I was unable to match this blue fully, so there are darker highlights on the front of his cowl to try and at least blend somewhat better. For what these figures cost though, something like this is very frustrating. Moving down, the rest of the figure has a nice mix of color. I wish his eyes had been a brighter red though, as they are barely visible. The yellow paint on his shoulder and upper body armor is a bit too transparent and we can kind of see the underlying gray beneath it. What I do like is that the metallic blue is painted over red on the chest and gauntlets... this leads me to wonder if we'll see the red and gold version of Az-Bats that appears later in the story? The silver/blue around his torso is very nicely done and the details on his gauntlets and clawed gloves are superb. I really like the silver claws. There is even a bit of darker yellow wash over the thigh pouches, which gives them nice depth. The cape itself has four wires which work well enough, though mine are fairly loose at the attachment points. Probably, the best feature of this figure is the unmasked J.P. Valley head. The hairstyle and look are very reminiscent of both Graham Nolan and Jim Aparo's artwork and seem to have jumped right off the comic book page. I really, really want to like this figure so much more than I do, but there are just too many issues I have to give it anything better than an overly generous 7 out of 10. (I really don't want to, but I'm looking at the hopeful fact that I'm the only one with a scuffed cowl.) Were it not for that damage and the oddly transparent yellow armor paint, the score could have been higher.
Images © Dan's ToyBox 2023
Usually, if I have any issues with Mafex, they are quickly forgotten once I get to the articulation discussion. While this is a highly posable figure, I have major concerns. Starting up top... his head and neck are on pegs, which allow for increased range of motion. The problem is that the collar piece sits just high enough to preclude movement. So, while he can look side to side, and down, there is little ability to look upward. The shoulders have a really decent butterfly, but due to the armor, you risk scraping the paint if you try a 360 degree rotation. The arms will raise out to the sides in a relatively nice T pose, though and the bicep swivel works well. The elbows won't bend much past 90, due to the gauntlets, and though the wrists pivot well, the hinge is also impeded by the gauntlets. The shuriken effects and the grapnel can port into tiny slots on the top and bottom of each gauntlet and actually look pretty solid when in place. Moving onto the torso, we are introduced to the biggest issue I have with this figure. The diaphragm (both upper and lower) joints are super loose and there is a huge gap between his lower torso and the waist.
His utility belt is attached at his back, so as not to prevent or limit diaphragm rotation or crunch, but it's free floating in the front and I live in terror that I'm going to catch it on something and rip the belt right off. The loose joints at the diaphragm also make it terribly difficult to keep Az-Bats in a decent position. Due to the weight of his upper body, he constantly wants to tilt. The legs are, honestly, the best part of the figure. They split very well, can kick forward quite high and have that nice hidden thigh rotation. The knees bend in exceptionally deep, and the ankle pivot and hinge are firm, yet easy to use. The toe articulation is also nicely done and isn't loose at all. I want to give him a higher score, but I'm so disappointed with the torso gap and looseness of the major joints that Az-Bats gets a generous 5 out of 10. Perhaps I simply got a bad product, but man... Mafex has done so much QC improvement, I certainly expected better than this!
Images © Dan's ToyBox 2023
As an import, we already know this is going to be a more expensive figure. Looking online, you can find it at BBTS for $104.99. I got mine on Amazon, on sale, but still. For that amount, we should not only expect, but also GET more bang for our buck. I'm sorry, but what I got isn't worth that price, so as far as affordability goes, Az-Bats gets a very sour 4 out of 10.
Overall, I'm so terribly disappointed. I really wanted to like this figure so much more and I can only hope that when the Knightfall Bane and Bruce Wayne/Batman versions are released, they raise the bar. As far as I'm concerned, the Medicom Mafex #144 Knightfall Batman earns a very poor:
5 out of 10 ToyBoxes
You, my dear readers have been with us for 99 articles, since this website launched. I would like to invite you to visit Dan's ToyBox on Saturday 1/21/23 at NOON Eastern Standard Time as we bring you our Milestone ONE HUNDREDTH ARTICLE! Can't wait to share it, so until then... GEEK OUT!!!