“You cannot defeat your own terror!”
A good repaint is one that turns toy itself into an artistic canvas. As relevant as it may be to an original source, it goes beyond a simple recolor into a thing of beauty. Toys are art, though many of them are bad art – as is nearly every form of entertainment we consume – and new colors and paint schemes are on way to lift a figure a little closer to the ideal.
The Shadow of Diablo, a repaint of NECA’s earlier Diablo figure, comes from a specific part of the game’s final battle. You face Diablo himself on the Crystal Arch at the pinnacle of Heaven. After you have whittled down his health to roughly half, Diablo becomes impatient and declares, “Enough! Let us see how you fare in my realm of terror!” before sending the heroes into said realm – a special part of Hell, a dark and shadowy dimension filled with concentrated fear. Once in the Realm of Terror, you face dark clones of yourself along with the Shadow of Diablo. The Shadow fights like the real thing, except it teleports far more and its health is only about half of the original’s. When you defeat the Shadow, you escape the Realm of Terror and rejoin Diablo for the final state of the battle, in which he panics and goes all-out.
The Shadow might be Diablo himself remotely attacking you, or it might be a ghostly clone, or it might be an illusion, or it might be a representation of your fear itself. The game does not make this clear. But it gives the fight some added excitement and variety, and makes it seem more cinematic. NECA has pounced on this as a chance to reuse Diablo’s sculpt with a repaint (and thus save money), which has reached stores three months after the original figure came out.
Also, we might as well get this out of the way. Diablo is still male. His form has some feminine aspects either from Leah (his earthly host) or from Andariel (one of the Great Evils he absorbed into himself), but he is still a dude. Anyway, let’s take a look and see how he fares with these new colors!
The Shadow of Diablo’s packaging is typical NECA – a MASSIVE clamshell with the figure tied inside via the use of a twist tie. He has a lava-y backdrop, and also a brief bio – “Since 1996, a name has been whispered — the name of the living nightmare that even demons dread. The terror that can never die. That name is Diablo®: the namesake of Blizzard Entertainment’s best-selling action RPG series, and now a deluxe action figure from NECA!” That’s… not much of a bio. It doesn’t even mention what the Shadow itself is.
Diablo’s scale is roughly in line with other NECA figures – he sees eye-to-eye with 7-inch toys, but his spikes push him up to 9, easily. To be honest, he is really in scale with your 4-inch figures. Yes, GI Joe. Or, following current market trends, there’s that World of Nintendo Link figure on the market that’s just about the right size. So if you have any medieval fantasy toys in this scale, it’s the perfect place for them! MOTU barbarians are too big, but still make for a great photo op.
This sculpt is detailed. Really, really detailed. So much so that taking it all in might be a little while. Shadow of Diablo is covered in bony, chitinous armor plating (a gift from the other Evils?), and the texturing almost makes it look Gigeresque. His arms and legs are fleshier, with a slightly altered texture. His chest looks almost like it is melting – honeycombed through, with his (Leah’s? Andariel’s) vestigial breasts acting more as armor plating over his pecs.
NECA’s got incredible sculptors, and it shows whenever they manage to produce something this detailed in normal mass-market stores. In this case, there is a minor miracle because the figure is a really unsubtle, unfriendly devil, and those things are hard to market. “Hey kids, wanna play with a spirit of infinite evil and cruelty? Yay!” Whether it’s his spiny tail, skull visage, or even his child-bearing hips, this Diablo form is more than intimidating enough. In fact, I lament that I do not have the materials for a properly grand or horrifying backdrop for him. Well, it’s not the worst thing that could have happened. I still have my soul, right?
He’s got the blues! Whereas Diablo’s true form is all red, the Shadow is all blue! Aside from the base black of his body, every shade of him is blue. What looks white is really light blue. Even most of his black is really dark blue. He almost reminds me of the NES Predator, though his paint patterns are not designed to reflect 8-bit graphics.
With this cool paint scheme, Diablo loses a lot of the violent fiery aspects of his old form. If anything, it brings out the details of the sculpt a little deeper, and proves just how scary he is. He could be pink and purple for all it matters, and he would still be the Lord of Terror.
But the thing is, blue works. It works really well. Twilight colors change Diablo into something ghostlike, able to disappear into the darkness like a phantom. And the effect is striking. I got this figure two days before this review is scheduled to go live, and in that time two people alone have said, “I like this more than the red one.” It just looks fantastic. As I said, the mark of a good repaint is that it turns a toy into an artistic canvas, and this seems to have been reflected very well in the Shadow of Diablo.
Shadow of Diablo has ball-jointed secondary shoulders, hips, torso, and neck, ball-and-socket main shoulders, main elbows, secondary elbows, big shoulder spikes, knees, shins, ankles, and main hands. He also has a hinged mouth and double ball joints in his shoulder mouths – the pieces are connected by male-to-male ball-joint adapters (removable, too!). And finally, he has a bendable, removable tail.
Diablo is extremely poseable in a lot of ways, and you can get some great personality out of some positions that he can take. Just the slightest tilt of the head or movement of an arm can make a figure come alive. Those back spikes are a great example – pivot them in or out a little, and the creature looks totally different!
One oddity – Diablo’s elbow joints are uneven on his main arms. His left arm bends inward while his right bends a bit to the side – if you look, the joints are actually set to bend at different angles. It’s odd and a little awkward at times, but ultimately not a problem if you know what to look for.
The Shadow Diablo could have come with a few things – companion monsters, a soulstone, or such – but all he has is a base to stand on. I am actually very glad for this base, and my assumption is that the figure budget could not afford any accessories. Of course, there is one little thing that can work with some imagination – Diablo’s weird shoulder-mouths can be pulled off from his body very easily, at which point they become scary monster worms! And yes, they pop right back on with no trouble.
This figure costs $25 – and considering that it’s about the same size as a $30 Pacific Rim monster (albeit not as thick), that’s a pretty good deal.
THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR:
I would be careful with The Shadow of Diablo’s spindlier pieces – they don’t feel breakable, but it’s best not to put too much stress on them. Some of his joints might grow loose over time, as well, but such is life. Mine came with a broken back spike right out of the box, though I can stick it back on.
WHERE TO BUY:
Sure, you can buy these from Amazon and eBay (NECA’s official stores), but why not go straight to Toys R Us and let them know that stocking NECA toys is a good thing?
Despite how it may seem (Goetia figures, etc.), I don’t exactly run around going “Demons demons demons demons yay!” I just like a good monster. And Diablo, in any of his forms, is a good monster. His Shadow is also an excellent variant, the various shades of cool blue transforming him into an entirely different beast than his traditional fiery red. Normal Diablo is a huge, hulking, flaming beast who brings Hell with him. Shadow of Diablo seems like it could almost strike from the shadows, its form becoming clear only when you are about to die. This paint job brings out his aspect as Lord of Terror in unexpected ways, and producing it was a really good decision on NECA’s part. If they want to continue to follow this theme, he does have one more color variant late in the expansion, but that might be overkill.