Thursday, March 30, 2006

Others agree that JLU line rocks!

JPX: This is a somewhat outdated article that reviews some of the Justice League Unlimited line. It's just good to know that others are paying attention.

Octopunk: Speaking of paying attention, It's two and a half weeks later and I'm finally adding a picture to this post. I stalled because this dude's pictures are all as blurry as this one...but I didn't feel like looking for a comparison pic of the two Braniacs. I was going to snap my own tonight, but my tripod's still at Adam's house. Instead, since I just read this article for the first time, I thought I'd chime in [in brackets]. So from Captain Toy:

Mattel's Justice League Unlimited figures are turning up across the nation, and for most fans, this is a more than welcome change in direction for the JL line. [Indeed.] Focusing on expanding the character roster rather than simply trotting out the core seven again and again with more plastic crap snapped onto them [bullseye!], this line is seen by many as this decade's equivalent of the fondly remembered Super Powers line of the 80s. Since the core seven JL members have been covered before, this review focuses on some of the new additions to the JL lineup: Dr. Fate, Green Arrow, the Atom, Red Tornado, Amazo, Brainiac, Starman, and Aquaman.

Packaging - ***1/2
The packaging used is preferable to digging through a bunch of loose figures that have been tossed into a box, and that's about all I can say for it. The cards for single figures are small, just big enough to house the figure and its accessory. With the age warnings and the multilingual product descriptions, the overall look is one of extreme clutter. The cards for the three-packs are larger, but no less cluttered. Each card has a little icon on the top left corner that names the episode the included figures were featured in, which is a nice little afterthought. The figures shown on the back are not named, a common trait on Mattel's packaging these days. I understand that it's due to their preference for multilingual cards-- naming the characters shown on the cardback would add even more clutter-- it's still a strike against them. I can see clueless parents nationwide fretting as their children ask for "the big red guy" they saw on the cardback, with no name to go by. Lastly, the fact that characters like Green Arrow are shown flying on the front of the card is just... odd.

[It is pretty loony how much text there is on these cards, and that's a pain in the butt about the names. I wonder which other non-flyers are flying on the package.]

Sculpting - Dr. Fate, Green Arrow, Red Tornado, Aquaman, Starman, the Atom, : *** 1/2; Amazo: ***; Brainiac: **
The sculpting quality is very good overall, with one glaring exception. We'll get to him in a moment. Dr. Fate, Green Arrow, Red Tornado, Aquaman, the Atom, and Starman are the best of the bunch here, with nice clean sculpts that perfectly capture the look and feel of the characters. Green Arrow, in particular, seems absolutely spot-on, a perfect three-dimensional rendering of the animated character. Aquaman's slightly-angry look is appropriate, too, and give the figure a more expressive look than the neutral facial expressions many of the other figures have. Amazo'a sculpt is generally good, but there's something about it that just seems... off. I can't really pinpoint it, but something doesn't seem quite right about him.[I'd have to get an Amazo to know if I agree, but I do recall being a teensy bit disappointed seeing the figure, since I had seen the episode of the cartoon. The main thing to remember is that the cartoon is brilliant because they made Amazo that groovy abstract robot instead of a bare-chested goblin in stripey pants. Although while looking for that first pic I found a very cool custom JLU Old School Amazo clearly made from a Martian Manhunter fig. Neato!]

Scraping the bottom of the barrel is Brainiac. The body sculpt is actually pretty good, but this guy's head sculpt is just terrible. He has this weird sunken face, and a goofy pouting expression. My advice is to skip this one altogether, and hunt down the Brainiac figure from the Superman: The Animated Series line. It's superior to this one in every way. [Yeah, I agree with everything there. The original animated Braniac is probably in my top 20 favorite figures.] The scale on the figures is pretty good, with Brainiac and Aquaman the largest, and the Atom bringing up the rear.

Paint - **1/2
The paint apps are fairly sloppy in general, but nothing too bad. Bleed and slop are apparent here and there on every figure. It's noticeable, but it's not atrocious. I've seen better paint apps on mass-marketed figures, but I've also seen far worse. The only figure on which no slop is apparent is Amazo, but all that is painted on this figure are his red eyes and the black slit that surrounds them. Red Tornado features an odd mix of paint quality, as the slop is apparent at various points on the figure. However, the little slits for his eyes and mouth are painted perfectly, with no color bleed or slop whatsoever. One of my major gripes is with Dr. Fate. The prototype pics we saw had Fate painted in blue and gold, but on the actual figure, the gold has been replaced with bright, screaming yellow. The gold looked much better, and this change hurts the figure just a bit.

[I disagree with most of that. It sounds like he was going by just the figures he had in his hands. But, maybe his standards are higher than mine. I was also glad Dr. Fate wasn't gold, he wouldn't have matched the Super Powers one.]

Articulation - Aquaman: ***, the rest: **
This is a sore spot for many collectors. Mattel added articulation to the JL figures last year, then they take it away this year. Only previously produced figures such as Aquaman and the five males from the core seven have the additional articulation, while all the new figures are missing it. Without the added articulation, the figures look a bit like glorified Happy Meal toys. Aquaman has cut neck, shoulders, waist, and hips, and elbow and knee joints. This gives him a pretty good range of movement, and only makes the limited articulation on the other figures seem more inadequate. The others have cut neck, shoulders, and hips. That's it. The old "Hasbro five." This line is often compared to the Super Powers line, and it's just sad that a line produced twenty years ago sported more articulation than this one. Aside from Aquaman, these figures are good for standing in a static pose, and not much else.

[Since I'm more in tune with static poses, I prefer the old "Hasbro five." The figures look cleaner and feel sturdier. Actually, I think the way they do it is perfect: add joints to later incarnations of the figures. The thing is, the extra articulation doesn't make them all that flexible. The sculpts prevent really dramatic poses. Try to make your "knees & elbows" Flash look like he's running reeeeallly fast, and you'll see what I mean.]

Accessories - The Atom, Green Arrow: ***, Dr. Fate: **, the rest: big fat 0
The Atom comes with an excellent accessory: a tiny version of himself, less than an inch tall. This lets you re-enact his shrinking power perfectly. The tiny Atom is unarticulated, of course. Green Arrow comes with his bow and an arrow, although he can't hold them properly because of his inadequate articulation. Dr. Fate comes with an ankh that is ablaze with lightning. The single figures also include a card featuring a character from the show. It doesn't appear to have any purpose, unlike the game cards packaged with recent Marvel Legends figures. These aren't anything earth-shattering, but at this price, these accessories are acceptable. The figures in the three-packs have no accessories. This isn't a big deal with most of them, but why couldn't they at least toss Starman's staff in there with him?

[I didn't know GA couldn't hold his bow, and I also think that accessory would be at least as important as Starman's staff. I mean, I know Starman has a staff because that character shows up in the Starman comic book (although he's not the title character in that book, he's a Starman of the past). But every should get that Green Arrow has arrows. Come on.]

Fun Factor - ***
Despite the limited articulation, kids will love these figures. Some of the lesser-known heroes, like Starman, may not be favorites of theirs, but kids love superheroes in general, and they'll at least have seen them on the show. The lack of accessories in the three-packs aren't really an issue for kids, since they tend to lose those tiny bits of plastic within five minutes of removing them from the package. For collectors, who mainly display their figures, these figures are capable of that. Some of the figures do have weak ankles, however, due to the cheap plastic used in most mass-produced figures these days.

[Even spotting how much they reuse sculpts, I totally agree here. These characters are fun and colorful. This is also my last comment.]

Value - ***
As recently as a few months ago, the JL line was wretchedly overpriced. Mattel recognized this, and they corrected the problem. At $4.99 for a single figure and $10.99 for a three-pack, the price is just about right.

Overall - Brainiac: **, the rest: ***
Brainiac is the big stinker in this bunch, but the rest are solid. With the three-packs, you're bound to wind up with some duplicates of the core seven, but they're good use as custom fodder. And at the price, it's tough to complain too much about that. My one piece of advice, like I said before, is to skip Brainiac altogether, and hunt down the version from the Superman: TAS line. It's pretty cheap, and much better than this JLU version. The Justice League Unlimited line may not be Super Powers, but it's the closest we have. We're getting figures of characters I never would have expected to see in retail stores, and that's cool enough for me.

Things to watch out for -
No huge problems here. If you have the opportunity, take a few moments to examine the figures in the store to find the best paint jobs.

Score recap
Packaging: **
Sculpting: Dr. Fate, Green Arrow, Red Tornado, Aquaman, Starman, the Atom, :***1/2; Amazo: ***; Brainiac: **
Paint: ** 1/2
Articulation: Aquaman: ***, the rest: **
Accessories: The Atom, Green Arrow: ***, Dr. Fate: **, the rest: big fat 0
Fun Factor: ***
Value: ***
Overall: Brainiac: **, the rest: ***

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