I went on at length about my love for DCUC in my review of wave one, so this time around, we’ll get right to the reviews and photos. Suffice to say, wave two is just as awesome as wave one, and maybe even better.
Click on any photo thumbnail in the review for the full version.
(My thanks to Cornerstorecomics for their prompt shipping and great customer service in getting these figures to me.)
In the 1990s, as part of an effort to revitalize their older superheroes, DC Comics featured big “event” storylines such as the Death of Superman and the Knightfall saga. Whatever you might think of the stories, they produced characters who were both memorable and visually interesting. Three of the main players in those stories–Doomsday, Bane, and Azrael–have already been immortalized by the Four Horsemen in plastic. So it should come as no surprise we get Superman as he looked in his Blue and Red periods.
In the late 1990s, DC stripped Superman of his familiar powers and gave him a whole assortment of energy-based abilities that were intended to be a natural evolution of his powers. He also got a brand-new blue suit. And then he split into two Supermen, the blue one and a red version. It’s sort of complicated.
Here’s the packaging bio:
Superman’s awesome abilities were sapped completely by the star-consuming Sun-Eater! An attempt to re-instate his superpowers transformed the Man of Steel into two energy beings: the rational Superman Blue and the hotheaded Superman Red! Eventually, the equal-but-opposite Supermen were merged following a battle with the Millennium Giants. As the single Superman absorbed the rays of Earth’s yellow sun, he was restored to his superpowered self.
Of course Superman reverted back to his traditional costume and old-school powers; he’s an icon, after all. Nonetheless, Superman Blue/Red is known well enough by fans to make for a legitimate variant (and an easy retool). And whatever you might think of the concept, he makes for a pretty neat action figure.
Sculpt: As any of my faithful readers know, the case of DCUC2 I ordered came with both Superman variants. I decided to give away the red one because the blue one was the “standard” outfit of the storyline, worn for most of the outfit’s run. The red one only appeared after Superman split into two beings.
The body sculpt uses the same buck as Batman, Red Tornado, and Orion from the first wave, and it has even fewer bells and whistles than those figures did. Supes is rocking a full-body spandex suit with some headgear. The only new sculpting is the head, which features a good rendition of Clark’s chiseled American good looks.
Plastic & Paint: Like Red Tornado, Supes Blue is molded almost entirely from a single color. This gives Supes Blue a more toylike feel than some of the other figures, but I like the result. It gives the figure a solid feel and presence. There does seem to be a very light wash on the limbs.
The paint, as mentioned, is limited to the white markings and the details on the head. For a mass-market figure, it’s all done quite well. My only complaint is the tendency of the paint to scrape and bunch up around the h-joint of the hips when the legs is rotated out horizontally, an issue which seems to happen with several DCUC figures.
Articulation: As a rather generic figure, Supes Blue has the standard DCUC articulation: ball joints at the neck and shoulders, hinge joints at the elbows, knees, ankles and abdomen, post-hinge joints at the hips (for ball joint-style range of motion), and swivel joints at the wrists, biceps, thighs and waist.
Accessories: Again, Supes Blue is a wee bit light in this department. I’m going to count the blue energy attachment on his back as an accessory, though it isn’t (technically) removable. His two crackling-energy wrist gauntlets are, however. They’re all molded in clear blue plastic, and there’s a traditional Superman S-symbol in the center of the blue flames on the back. I’m usually not a fan of sculpted energy or flames, but leave it to Mattel and the Horsemen to create something that actually works well.
Of course, Supes Blue also comes with Gorilla Grodd’s left arm–but more on that later.
While Supes Blue isn’t exactly the most popular character choice for an action figure, he’s an excellent example of one.
I’ve only recently gotten into DC Comics, so Black Manta is a character I’m fairly unfamiliar with. Apparently he’s the closest thing Aquaman has to an arch-nemesis. Here’s his packaging bio:
Black Manta engages in undersea crime in an attempt to conquer the world beneath the waves. However, Aquaman thwarts Black Manta at every turn, a conflict that has led to Black Manta’s murder of Aquaman’s infant son. Tiring of his constant defeats, Black Manta sold his soul to the demon Neron for greater power and was thus transformed into a true denizen of the deep.
That’s pretty intense for a toy package…and it was my understanding that Neron’s alterations to Manta had been undone at some point. Whatever; Black Manta is one of Aquaman’s toughest villains.
Sculpt: Black Manta sports the “lithe adult male” buck, as opposed to the “buff adult male” buck used by Red Tornado, Supes Blue et al. It’s got the excellent anatomical sculpting we’ve come to expect from the Horsemen, as well as their trademark shoulders.
Since he’s just wearing a black wetsuit, Manta has a very basic body (perfect for customizers, though unfortunately he’s not going to be as abundant as Supes Blue/Red). The real detail is on his helmet and backpack. As they so often do, the Horsemen find the right way to present the comic book technology so as to be faithful to the source, while making it look as if it might have some real-world functionality. There are some details one might never even think to look for, such as the two knobs on the back of the helmet and the dial on the back of his neck.
I also like the tubes that feed from the helmet to the backpack. The Horsemen have become very good at finding a way to implement rubber tubes like these without harming the sculpt or playability of the toy. Manta’s head has a full range of motion with the tubes, unless you want to spin his head all the way around, Exorcist-style. (On a side note, I can’t be the only person to wonder how Black Manta can possibly see out of that helmet. His eyes would be far back from the goggles–which can shoot energy blasts, by the way. I figure that, in keeping with the nautical theme, the helmet contains a periscope-like arrangement inside.)
Plastic & Paint: I’m not certain whether Black Manta is molded entirely in black, since my figure appears to have a flat black matte across his entire surface. He could be black, white or gray under there, and I don’t want to scratch him to find out for sure. I do like the matte black paint job, which suggests the rubbery material of a professional wetsuit.
Again, the best paint work is on the helmet. The silver of the metal is tempered by a faint wash, giving it a realistic look. The purple on the sockets of the tubes, while slightly sloppily applied on my figure, and the bright red of the goggles are nice splashes of comic book color in an otherwise somber color scheme.
Articulation: Aside from his head, Black Manta has the standard DCUC articulation: ball joints at the shoulders, hinge joints at the elbows, knees, ankles and abdomen, post-hinge joints at the hips (for ball joint-style range of motion), and swivel joints at the wrists, biceps, thighs and waist.
The head is a bit trickier. Due to its flat, flying-saucer-like shape, it can really only move side to side and somewhat up and down (mostly down). He can’t tilt his head at all, but that may make realistic sense given the helmet anyway.
Accessories: Black Manta comes with two accessories: a high-tech speargun and that trademark weapon of the deep, a trident. The trident is fairly simple, but the speargun is a nasty-looking weapon and has some great detail. Both weapons have a streamlined, undersea look to them and fit securely in the figure’s hands. Manta also comes with Grodd’s left leg.
I didn’t expect to like Black Manta as much as I did. Despite the simplicity of the character design, he’s one of my favorites in the wave.
Batman has one of the best rogues gallery in superhero comics; his only rival in that department is probably Spider-Man. Stop your average Joe in the street and start saying names like the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, and Catwoman, and that person will say, “Why are you randomly listing the names of Batman villains at me?”
If you started tossing in names like Two-Face, Clayface, Scarecrow, and Mr. Freeze, you’d probably start getting some blank looks if this hypothetical Joe isn’t a comics fan. But if he is, then he will know exactly who you’re talking about. You might even get down to Bane, Killer Croc, and Man-Bat before Joe starts looking at his watch and trying to interject and say thanks, but he’d really hoped to see his firstborn child’s birth. (If you get to Kite Man, you’ve gone too far; turn around and look for signs for the Sprang Bridge.)
Since the 1970s, there have been two significant additions to Batman’s rogues gallery: the aforementioned Bane and Harley Quinn. But unlike the other villains, Harley first appeared not in the comics, but on Batman: The Animated Series. Originally created as an all-purpose lackey for the Joker, she won over fans with her goofy-yet-sexy outfit, gangster-moll accent and undying devotion to her abusive beau. A few years later she was introduced into the mainstream comics universe.
An Arkham Asylum psychiatrist assigned to treat the Joker, Harleen Quinzel was instead driven mad by the Clown Prince of Crime and helped him escape. Nearly as insane as the Joker himself, Harley Quinn is a violent and unpredictable felon who will do anything to prove her love and loyalty to the Joker, her beloved.
Sculpt: Harley appears to have the same base body as the DC Superheroes Batgirl and Catwoman, with a few small changes: pointed elf-boots on her feet and ruffles on her wrists. The jester’s collar is a separate piece, though it’s glued on in the back. (There’s a little white frost from the glue on my figure–not a big deal, but worth mentioning as a potential QC issue.)
The excellent face sculpt captures Harley’s hotness, while also conveying a bit of her insanity–she’s got the crazy eyes.
Plastic & Paint: Harley is mostly molded in a shade of red plastic that’s a bit more muted than Red Tornado’s. Both the red plastic and the black paint have a nice matte look, and there’s very little slop on my figure. The poker-like diamonds on her upper right thigh and lower left calf are very sharp, but she doesn’t have the diamonds on her right bicep or left forearm that she’s usually drawn with (presumably because they would have been too difficult to apply on a mass market figure).
One thing that’s bothered many collectors is the blue wash on her face. It’s very evident, and some fans think it’s too strong. Personally, I like it, particularly since it mostly falls in the shadowed areas of her face (her cheeks and chin). Various Harleys seem to have varying amounts of wash, so if it matters to you, be sure to look through them on the pegs.
Articulation: Harley has the standard DCUC articulation: ball joints at the neck and shoulders, hinge joints at the elbows, knees, ankles and abdomen, post-hinge joints at the hips (for ball joint-style range of motion), and swivel joints at the wrists, biceps, thighs and waist. The horizontal range of the hip joints are slightly limited by the construction of the H-joint.
Accessories: Mattel has gotten much better about including cool accessories with their DC figures. Harley comes with two of her signature weapons, an over-sized, cartoon-like wooden mallet and a huge revolver with a cork in it. The mallet fits in her hands well, but the pistol tends to sit rather loosely in her right hand, and I had to use some Blu Tack to secure it. She also comes with Grodd’s head and torso.
(As cool as these accessories are, I think Harley looks best holding the tommy gun that came with the DCSH Two-Face figure.)
As a member of the Bat-rogues, Harley was one of my more anticipated figures in this wave, and she doesn’t disappoint. As a rare female figure, expect her to vanish from toy shelves.
While never what you would call an A-list superhero in the DC Universe, Firestorm was popular enough to rate a couple of solo comic runs and a figure in the 1980s Super Powers line. I suspect this latter fact helped get him into DCUC so early.
There will be a variant version of this figure featuring Jason Rusch, the current Firestorm and Ronnie’s replacement, but it has yet to hit stores.
High school student Ronnie Raymond and physicist Martin Stein found themselves bonded at the atomic level when a terrorist bomb blew up Stein’s lab. Able to rearrange matter at the molecular level, Raymond and Stein’s united alter ego Firestorm battle injustice. While Ronnie was the physical body, Stein provided sage counsel and scientific advice as a disembodied spirit.
Sculpt: The sculpt is on par with the rest of the line–which is to say, very good. However, this figure was intended to be the modern Jason Rusch version of Firestorm, and was retooled to be the Ronnie Raymond version. Usually for variants, Mattel and the Horsemen re-sculpt all the parts of the figure that differ from the regular version, but in this case they left the Rusch gloves (which are yellow all the way to the end of the forearm) intact. Ronnie’s gloves were a bit smaller. I’m not enough of a fan of Firestorm to care about it, but I imagine it will matter to some.
The original prototype sculpt had Ronnie’s mouth yelling, but Mattel and the Horsemen wisely re-sculpted it with a closed mouth. The reason a closed mouth is preferable is because it can serve as a “default” look for a character, meaning one is free to imagine that character as being happy or sad, angry or calm. If the mouth is opened in a yell, he’s going to look a little odd in a diorama of the Justice League sitting around in a meeting, as if he’s shouting at everyone like Billy Mays.
One final note–Ronnie’s flame-hair. I’ll touch on this a bit more in the next section, but I should note that I’ve rarely seen flames done on an action figure as well as the Horsemen have done here.
Plastic & Paint: Like Red Tornado in wave one, Firestorm has the most “toyish” look and feel of the wave. The bright red and yellow, while accurate to the costume, looks and feels like the plastic it’s made from; and while there’s a light wash on the red areas, there doesn’t appear to be one on the yellow parts.
However, the paint applications on the face and chest details are very well done, particularly the intersecting white lines over the right breast.
I’m impressed by how good the flames on the head look. I’ve never been sure that translucent plastic was the best way to portray three-dimensional flames on an action figure; it runs the risk of looking more like a barley lollipop. But Firestorm has one of the best implementations of this I’ve come across, thanks largely to the Horsemen’s intricate detail work on the flames.
Articulation: Firestorm has the standard DCUC articulation: ball joints at the neck and shoulders, hinge joints at the elbows, knees, ankles and abdomen, post-hinge joints at the hips (for ball joint-style range of motion), and swivel joints at the wrists, biceps, thighs and waist.
Accessories: Since he can rearrange matter and project powerful beams of nuclear energy, Ronnie doesn’t really need to carry any weapons. But the figure does feature two “molecular” attachments for his hands. They resemble an elementary school textbook’s image of a molecule, and they even have a slight orange wash on them. Again, despite my skepticism of three-dimensional representations of things like flames and energy, I’m impressed by how well the Horsemen make it work.
Firestorm also comes with Grodd’s right leg.
No well-known superhero has been the subject of as much derision as Aquaman. Whether due to the the inexplicable orange-and-green costume or the unfortunate limitation of performing best in an environment in which humans can’t live naturally, Aquaman has been the Justice League’s lowest-ranking A-lister for decades. Despite being the King of Atlantis and having complete control over anything that lives in water–from whales to great white sharks to lampreys–ol’ Orin still tends to get shunted to the “…and the rest” part of the figurative Justice League theme song.
There are two versions of Aquaman shipping: the “classic” version (whose real name is Orin) and the modern “Arthur Joseph Curry” version, who sports a longer haircut, golden gauntlets and a distinct lack of black underwear. The version I’m reviewing is the classic Aquaman.
Found abandoned, Prince Orin of Atlantis was raised in the ways of the surface world and renamed by lighthouse keeper Arthur Curry. But in the water was where young Arthur truly thrived. In adulthood, he took the name Aquaman and used his aquatic abilities to patrol the seven seas. The aquatic avenger’s renown soon earned him a place among the newly assembled Justice League of America.
Sculpt: While every figure thus far in DCUC has been exceptional, sometimes it seems like the Horsemen take a little more time on certain characters, and I suspect Aquaman was one of them. The detail on the scaled armor on his torso is as good as anything you’ll see on a specialty market figure, and the head sculpt captures Orin’s leonine features.
His legs are from the buff buck, with some fins added to the back of his calves.
Plastic & Paint: Again, Mattel seems to have put a little extra oomph into Aquaman. The color used for the torso is just the right bright shade of orange, and the wash brings out the detail on the scales perfectly. The shiny green plastic of the molded gloves adds a touch of the aquatic, like the material of a raincoat or galoshes, while the smooth, matte finish of the legs suggests the skin of a shark.
The paint work on the head sculpt is also very good, and there’s some nice gold detailing around the collar of his tunic.
Articulation: Aquaman has the standard DCUC articulation: ball joints at the neck and shoulders, hinge joints at the elbows, knees, ankles and abdomen, post-hinge joints at the hips (for ball joint-style range of motion), and swivel joints at the wrists, biceps, thighs and waist.
Accessories: In addition to Grodd’s right arm, Aquaman, like his nemesis Black Manta, comes with a long trident. I really like its sculpt; the way the left and right prongs bend closely to the central one somehow makes the weapon seem even more oceanic. It fits easily on either or both hands.
For a guy who doesn’t often get the respect he deserves, the Four Horsemen and Mattel have done justice to this Justice League member.
But wait, there’s more!
Collect all five figures and you’ll finally have what you need to put together Gorilla Grodd, the superintelligent simian and perennial Flash foe. Since he doesn’t have a package of his own, Grodd doesn’t get a little bio, so instead, I’ll swipe one from his Wikipedia entry.
Gorilla Grodd is a hyper-intelligent telepathic supervillain with the power to control the minds of others. At one time he was nothing more than an average ape, but after an alien spacecraft crashed in his African home, Grodd and his troop were imbued with super-intelligence by the ship’s pilot. Grodd and fellow gorilla Solovar also developed telepathic and telekinetic powers. Taking the alien as their leader, the gorillas constructed a super advanced home named Gorilla City. The gorillas lived in peace until their home was discovered by prying explorers. Grodd forced one of the explorers to kill the alien, and took over Gorilla City, planning to take the world next. Solovar telepathically contacted Barry Allen to warn him of the evil gorilla’s plans, and Grodd was defeated. However, the villain would return again and again to plague the Flash and his allies.
Grodd is really just a very smart gorilla. And as everyone knows, gorillas are awesome. Gorillas in comics are even more awesome, and if they are over-sized and have cybernetic attachments, the awesomeness (as rated by J.D. Power and Associates) soars through the roof.
Sculpt: Technically, Grodd is a gorilla who happens to be hyper-intelligent and have superhuman mental powers–so, physically, he should look like a normal gorilla. But where’s the fun in that? While real-world gorillas usually walk by leaning forward on their knuckles and stand five to six feet high, Grodd stands on his hind legs and is often drawn towering over the superheroes he fights. Reflecting this tendency, the Horsemen’s Grodd stands over eight inches tall, making him two inches (and thus, two feet) taller than the average DCUC figure.
While Grodd is usually depicted in this larger size and as being bipedal, nothing else distinguishes him from your average ape. To distinguish the character, the Horsemen added a neat mad scientist-style helmet (to suggest his telepathic and psychokinetic abilities) and gauntlets that connect to the helmet. What are they intended to do? Who knows–they can do whatever you want them to.
Grodd was originally going to come with some sort of weird, Kirby-esque pincer-devices as well, and his hands are sculpted to hold them, but it seems they didn’t cost out at the production stage. The helmet is glued on, though I imagine you could pry it off with some effort.
One aspect of the sculpt that many fans have commented on is the face. Grodd is almost as famous for his temper as he is for his tendency to refer to himself in the third person; but this is a very calm, reflective Grodd. As mentioned in my Firestorm review, I prefer calmer faces to raging ones, but do think the Horsemen could have made Grodd glowering a bit more. It’s not big deal, though, and as you can see if you click on the image to the right, it works well when Grodd is examining some odd piece of equipment (equipment swiped from another Horsemen-sculpted cyber-monkey, Code Red).
Plastic & Paint: Again, the work on Grodd is exceptional. The plastic used in his construction is a bit stiffer and less rubbery than that of the regular figures, but it ensures his body and limbs aren’t too loose or heavy to hold their positions when posed. But the plastic also holds the details of the sculpt well, and is reminiscent of the great work on ToyBiz’s Face-Off Hulk.
There’s a white wash over much of Grodd’s fur, giving him the distinctiveness of an elder silverback. His red eyes are appropriately menacing.
Articulation: Being a Collect & Connect figure–and a different species to boot–Grodd’s articulation is a bit different than that of most DCUC characters. He has ball-and-hinge joints at the head and shoulders, hinge joints at the elbows, limited ball-and-hinge joints at the wrists, and swivel joints at the biceps, hips and ankles. Some more leg articulation would have been nice, but for a large character like this (and at the DCUC price point), it’s satisfactory.
Accessories: Again, no accessories, unless you count his helmet-and-gauntlet combo.
We’ve had a lot of BAF/C&C figures since Galactus in Marvel Legends, and Grodd stands out with the best of them. Now all we need is a Flash for him to tussle with.