Continuing Newsarama’s look at the special review copies DC Collectibles sent us of their latest Batman Animated offerings, we examine a new three-pack that riffs on one of the most famous Bat-Tales ever. Let’s delve in!
The new pack features three figures based on one of the segments of The New Batman Adventures episode “Legends of the Dark Knight.” For those that don’t remember, it’s a variation on the classic comics story “The Batman Nobody Knows!” where kids tell stories involving their different interpretations of Batman…only this version (conceived by Bruce Timm before he knew about the original comic) takes things a step further by having the Bat-Variations the kids imagine take the form of the campy tales of the 1950s/1960s and - most importantly for this set - the ultra-grim future Batman of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.
(There’s also a vaguely effeminate kid named “Joel” who likes stoles, notes the flames of a recent battle were “fabulous” and thinks Batman wears rubber armor, a slightly uncomfortable poke at Batman and Robin director Joel Schumacher. Moving on.)
Storyboarded by the late great Darwyn Cook, the Dark Knight Returns fantasy sequence has one of the kids, Carrie, essentially take on the role of Carrie Kelly, the Robin from DKR, in the scene where the older Batman takes on the leader of the Mutants, the monstrous gang that’s got Gotham under its thumb. The sequence is clever on several levels in the way it allows the show to bring the carnage of Miller’s dystopian future to a children’s cartoon while highlighting the satirical quality of its deadpan dialogue (“Rubber bullets. Honest.”) and satirizing the grim’n’gritty era of comics The Dark Knight Returns inadvertently helped usher in by literally reducing it to an adolescent fantasy, all while playing on the relatable idea of being a kid who fantasizes about getting to help Batman.
The last few years have brought a number of figures based on The Dark Knight Returns, including a previous one by DC Collectibles, some premium-format versions of Batman and the Mutant Leader from Mezco, and most recently, several figures in the DC Multiverse line. This pack is the third version of the Mutant Leader in about two years; not bad for a character who only appeared in a few books 30 years ago.
So, how do these toys stack up? Let’s break them down one by one.
First - this is a huge toy. Its larger buck is similar to a few other figures in the line, such as Etrigan the Demon from last year, but the enormous limbs easily make it the forerunner in terms of sheer amount of plastic used for one character.
The look employed is a dead-on capture of The Dark Knight Returns’ older Batman, who, in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia terms, has been “cultivating mass.” The color scheme is also good; The Dark Knight Returns was a variation on the blue-and-gray-suited Batman, so his outfit is a slightly darker version of those colors without going all-the-way black; even his utility belt is a nice bright yellow. The character has a perfectly PO’d/constipated teeth-gritting look on his face and shoulders so broad they could be a landing strip, again providing a perfect homage/satire of the over-the-top muscularity of the Frank Miller book.
This is possibly the most stable of all the figures reviewed for this line, as the thick legs and arms allow it to stand up without support. That’s a good thing, as the figure stand it comes with does not fit around Batman’s wider waist; nor does the more elaborate clamp-stand that came with the “Batman Expressions” pack previously reviewed. In fact, trying out a variety of figure stands and “Flight Stands” from different companies revealed how hard it is to get this Batman in an action pose. Looking around, we found a still of Batman fighting the Mutant Leader…
…and tried to recreate it with help from a few flight stands…
…and you see the problem. A few of the larger animated Batman characters such as Harvey Bullock and Etrigan have had an ab crunch, but there’s none here; there are also no ankle joints or rockers, meaning that there are almost no poses you can put the figure in beyond what’s there. This is one of the few figures in the line that has holes in its feet, but they’re so small that only a few peg-based figure stands would fit it, and you might need something designed for a 12-inch-scale figure to try to create an action scene. Don’t even think of trying to recreate the famous silhouetted jump from The Dark Knight Returns #1’s cover; you might break down in tears.
As such, this is a fun piece for some crowd scenes, or possibly a desktop decoration to the effect of “I Hate Mondays.” But the mass and limited poseability mean it doesn’t have much it can do other than sit there and look grim – which might be all you want.
There are a lot of problems with the DC Collectibles’ Batman Animated female figures but the smaller-scale Carrie avoids most of them, aside from the lack of a waist joint. Remember, this isn’t exactly the same character as the one in The Dark Knight Returns, but rather a “regular” girl imagining herself as Robin. As such, “this” Carrie has slightly neater hair and more translucent yellow glasses than some of the other figure versions of the character, but the look still works.
The sculpt gives Carrie a nicely deadpan-smug face, as though she’s keeping her cool and slightly amused throughout the chaos surrounding her. Her costume is in bright “classic” Robin colors (honestly, slap on a Tim Drake head from this line and you’d have something kind of close to the 1950s/1960s-style Robin), and her cape is a nice light rubber that has a cloth-like flap to it. Her limbs have decent-if-not-spectacular articulation, and in addition to the extra hands that accompany the figures in this pack, she comes with her trademark slingshot, which fits nicely and lets you create some fun poses.
Though a tiny figure – particularly when sandwiched between the massive Batman and Mutant Leader – Carrie’s a fun little figure and a nice visual.
Which leads us to the final part of this pack…
A sentence one does not typically type when reviewing toys based on an animated series for children: “The nipple spikes are separate molded pieces and made of soft rubber, so do not worry about pin-pricks.”
The Mutant Leader is quite the mash-up of styles. Not only is it a 3-D plastic representation of the flat, fluid animated designs of Bruce Timm and Darwyn Cooke, it’s further based on a style that’s an exaggeration of the already-exaggerated Frank Miller style, itself riffing on the likes of British 2000 A.D. comic bookss and the S&M-meets-punk style of Judas Priest and the works of Clive Barker – all while riffing on the exaggerated urban fear of punks from the era of Margaret Thatcher and the Moral Majority.
There’s a lot going on here, put mildly.
As a figure itself, this hews closer to the designs of Etrigan and Killer Croc with a large upper half and tiny, stick-like legs. The articulation is pretty typical; the ab crunch missing from the Batman figure in the pack is present here in the form of a ball joint in the upper torso, which lets the figure hunch over or spring back. There’s only two sets of hands, fists and outstretched, but they both work, with the outstretched hands having nicely black claw fingernails.
The paint scheme on this is pretty excellent; the figure is more of a light gray-blue, appropriate for the nighttime setting of the sequence, which is offset by the dark black on the rest of the figure, such as the claws or what we assume are leather pants, complete with spiked belt. A few nice paint applications on the character’s pimple-shaped head are the touch of dark red on its visor, and an extra layer of black inside its mouth, helping the razor-sharp teeth really pop.
…uh, there are also the nipple spikes. Like the ones on the belt, they are soft rubber. Yeah. Spent too much time on these already.
Overall, this is a pretty cool figure, and while it’s very top-heavy, a sturdy stand such as the clamp one with the “Expressions” pack should hold it nicely, making it a fun piece for not only this line, but if you need an over-the-top punk to be taken out by Robocop, Judge Dredd, or other bad-ass future vigilante figures.
This pack was the real winner out of the review copies DC Collectibles sent. If you love The Dark Knight Returns, or the “Legends of the Dark Knight” episode, this is a great homage to a homage…so to speak. The Batman is a bit stiff, but otherwise the sculpts are a lot of fun, and should let you set up some fun scenes. Any chance of a follow-up with the tank-Batmobile and the “My Name Is Rob" and "My Name Is Don" mutants?
Rating: 8 out of 10