Several new entries into DC Collectibles' Icons lines were released this month, ranging from Wonder Woman to Deathstroke, Cyborg, Static, and Swamp Thing. While more ardent toy fans are still reeling from the cancelation of the planned Shazam, Deadshot, and Blue Beetle/Booster Gold figures, the release of these delayed figures shows some new life in what some thing might be a line reaching its end.
So these figures beg two questions: Were they worth the wait…and are they enough to argue the line should continue? Let’s find out.
The arch-enemy of the New Teen Titans (and occasionally Arrow, Nightwing and possibly Batman in his next movie) has gotten a number of figures in recent years…but relatively few of them have been his comic book look. There have been the likes of “New 52” Deathstroke, Arkham Origins-style Deathstroke, Arrow-style Deathstroke, an animated-style Deathstroke from the Son of Batman animated film and the “Slade” version from the Teen Titans cartoon, but almost no figures based on the original George Perez design from the 1980s. When there were figures of old-school Deathstoke, such as in DC Universe Classics a few years back, they were often the hardest to find in their particular waves, and split between the masked and unmasked Slade Wilson.
So it’s kind of a relief to have the Terminator (no, not that one) in his original form with all its bright orange-and-blue-ness… and with both masked and unmasked head options. If nothing else, there’s finally an O.G. Deathstroke available to the masses again. Get him while you can.
The boxes for all of these figures note which storylines the characters’ looks are drawn from, and Deathstoke’s comes from the devastating/creepy 1980s storyline “The Judas Contact.” The boxes also give these titles in French, so for those who didn’t know, that’s “Le Contrat de Judas.” Don’t forget that’s soon to be an animated film featuring one of the last performances by the recently-passed Miguel Ferrer as Deathstroke. Presumably, the story will be rewritten to not have the character hooking up with a 15-year-old. The ‘80s were a very uncomfortable time.
The figure itself is a strong sculpt with excellent poseability, though there’s a few drawbacks. First off - the look is terrific. The color scheme is dead-on with the original comics, and even the unmasked single eye captures that look where, at a distance, it looks like a white Spider-Man-type cover, something the original comic books were a wee bit inconsistent about. The orange is nicely bright, even if it never did make sense that an assassin would make himself that visible (It's because he's just that tough, and the blue chainmail has a metallic tint to it that conveys an armored look that’s often lost in 3-D versions of the character.
Pose-wise, the articulation is also very strong, if not perfect. Most limbs have ball joints, which allow for a good range of motion…though the figure’s right leg popped off right while taking it out of the box, a problem faced again with the Wonder Woman figure in this wave. It popped right back on, but be careful. There’s some tightness and an awkward gap between the orange on the thighs and on the shorts, in a few places, but for the most part, about any attack pose you want can be achieved with the character, which is what you want with a calculating character like ol’ Slade.
The accessories are the weak point for the figure. The Slade Wilson head is pretty decent and has a nicely cold, “strictly business” look, but the colors are a little flat. For comparison, check out the unmasked Deathstroke from the DC Direct “The Judas Contract” line from years back; you’ll wonder how Slade fit all that hair and beard under his mask, but it’s got a good sense of the detail this face lacks. If you’re customizing, a few flesh tones and some gray/black highlights might help with the look.
The weapons capture the arsenal Deathstroke employs in the comic books, but also suffer from a lack of paint applications. There’s his sword (recently given a backstory in Christopher Priest’s excellent Deathstroke book) and scabbard, which has a peg that fits snugly onto Deathstroke’s back. The sword employs that waxy-looking gold paint that’s shown up on a number of recent superhero figures (i.e. the Marvel Legends Angela and Nova in the recent Guardians of the Galaxy wave) that photographs decently, but doesn’t look as good in person.
The figure also comes with Deathstroke’s pistol (which fits in the holster on his right leg), his energy staff, and a larger rifle that doesn’t quite fit the character, but works if you want to sit up a sniper or “blowing everyone away”-type scene.
The latter three items are all straight gray plastic, and are a bit flat. If you’re into customizing, or want to get into it, a good solution for figures that have silver or gold pieces painted as gray or waxy yellow plastic is AMACO Rub ‘n Buff – yes, the name is kind of soul-crushing to type – which is an inexpensive metallic finish you can get at most art-supply stores or on Amazon. As shown in the example pictures here, they help bring out more detail in the sculpts, and if you don’t like what you see, you can remove the finish with mineral spirits or rubbing alcohol.
The figure also has an extra set of hands for weapon-grasping; they do all right, though they aren’t great at grasping the staff. The original solicitation for the figure showed another hand that looked like it was designed for that, but it appears to have been cut from the final product. Still, you can get some good staff-poses with the figure, and others where he’s ice-cold tracking his superhuman prey.
Overall: While not a perfect Deathstroke figure, it’s one fans have been waiting for - and a good argument for the value of this line.
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
The metallic parts of the Wonder Woman figure, based off “The Amazo Virus” storyline (or “Le Virus Amazo,” according to the box) come off much better than the Deathstroke accessories, with a weathered, slightly dirty look that makes them appear forged and battle-worn. Indeed, the look of the figure has a strong, old-school warrior vibe, one that makes the character appear strong and tough without over-sexualizing her the way many renditions do.
Wonder Woman comes with a sword, a shield, extra hands and two versions of her Lasso of Truth - one wound up that fits on a hook on her right thigh, and one that’s fully extended. She also has a couple of holster-type attachments around her waist, back and wrist that offer some interesting variations on the typical accessory-holding. The waist one carries her sword (which, again, has a decent metallic sheen, not as strong as the armor but with some gradation in the silver/gray), while the wrist and back ones involve her shield. The shield doesn’t have the typical hand-clip that most action figure accessories employ; rather, it has a hollow peg that fits into a similar slot on the wrist-holster or on the back holster, which is hidden under the flap of Wonder Woman’s hair.
It’s a decent, idea, but a little tricky to pull off – there’s a certain vacuum-type pressure from pressing two hollow objects together that makes it easy for the shield to pop off from either location. Both holsters are removeable, but if you can get the shield in place, you might want to hold that pose.
The lasso is also decent - it’s a thick braided plastic, and is wide enough to fit over other figures. Its tensile strength is unclear, and it’s probably best not to test it too much, but it works for a few basic poses with the character. Poseability is decent, though the figure has a little trouble standing up if her legs are too far apart - it requires some trial-and-error testing with her ankle rockers. She has a congenial-but-stoic look on her face; a few more flesh tones might help, but she does come off as confident in her ability to take down a threat without breaking a sweat.
Overall: A strong Wonder Woman figure - there are plenty already, and even more with the movie coming out, but this works well as a representation of the character and as a toy.
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
First: A moment of silence for the late, great Bernie Wrightson, who co-created the character, and recently passed.
This take on the muck-encrusted mockery of a man comes from the initial Wrightson stories, collected as “Dark Genesis,” or “Genèse Sombre,” as the package explains. We’re certainly learning a lot of French here, aren’t we?
Because it’s based off the look of the early stories, this Swamp Thing is leaner and lankier than many of the other figures you might know, dating back to the Kenner line from the 1990 animated series. Say what you will about turning Swampy into an environmental warrior and giving him a re-do of “Wild Thing” as his theme song, but those were some darn good figures. The “Snare Arm” Swamp Thing had a great sculpt and paint job, and a nifty extending-retracting arm that actually worked. You just don’t see that level of innovation these days.
Backing up, the initial Swamp Thing stories depicted the character as more of a shambling green corpse with a more humanoid shape, as opposed to later versions that went with no neck and lots of plant life growing all over. For an excellent history of the character – and other swamp-types including Man-Thing, the Heap and more - we recommend the TwoMorrows book Swampmen, which includes everything from Theodore Sturgeon’s original “It” story to looks at an unrealized Wrightson Swamp Thing graphic novel to older interviews with Steve Gerber, Alan Moore, and more. It’s more swamp action than you could possibly handle!
This figure is a mixed bag. There’s a great creepy look to the face and some good sculpted plant-detail, but the whole thing seems a bit too…bright for a swamp monster. This might be because Swamp Thing is usually depicted in the comics at night or through the filtered sunlight of the bayou, but it feels like an extra wash or some black highlights would have helped this figure out. The articulation is okay, but some more monstrous, shambling poses are hard to achieve, as the figure can’t slouch over very much with its ab/neck cuts.
Swamp Thing comes with the bare minimum of accessories; two extra “open” hands and Cranius, one of Anton Arcane’s Un-Men that also came with the Comic-Con International: San Diego exclusive figure of the character a few years back. We didn’t have that version on hand for this review, but Cranius is a decent grotesque sculpt, and photographs well with the right lighting. An odd touch with the character is a blobby extension of flesh at the back of its head/hand that helps it balance; a Google Image search helped determine that this is consistent with the initial depictions of the character, though later versions simply have his thumb at the back as a way of balancing. We’ll chalk this up to accuracy, though it’s a weird touch for an already-weird character.
Overall: If you want a rendition of the original Wrightson Swamp Thing, this is an okay take - though the overall figure might work better as a base for a zombie custom toy.
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
Okay, this one is a little problematic to evaluate. On the one hand, it’s a pretty good figure of a well-known character who hasn’t been represented much in toy form. On the other hand, some of the budget-based compromises to the figure really undermine the look and playability. But is it fair to judge a toy on what might have been?
To wit: When the figure was announced last year, it was as a “deluxe” package with a $45 suggested retail price. That version of the figure was depicted with three sets of hands, an extra “zapping” hand, and a raincoat Static wore over his costume for much of his original run.
The current version cuts all that, giving the figure just an extra head with his Malcolm X cap (which you can debate depending on your thoughts on Malcolm in the comments), a lightning base, and a manhole cover that fits onto the base Static can “ride.”
That’s not bad, but it’s a little confusing. The un-hatted-head was to help the hood of the raincoat fit over, so its absence is more glaring. And the character just has clenched fists now - the “zap”-hand is a good representation of his powers.
It’s all the more confusing if you know the character. Static’s all-spandex look was featured on the cover of his first issue, “You Don’t Start None, There Won’t Be None” (or “Jeux De Mains, Jeux De Vilains” in French, as the box helpfully explains), but wore the raincoat for about half of his run, before switching to the more detailed blue-and-white look that was also used on the Static Shock cartoon, from which most fans know him. There haven’t been any figures of that version of the character, with the exception of an “Older Static” from the “Justice League Beyond” in the Justice League Unlimited line.
So what you have is one of the only toy representations of a major black superhero in both comic books and other media, and it’s based off what’s essentially a one-off look. That said, it’s a decent sculpt and paint job - dark metallic blue, with some white highlights for the lightning crash and gold highlights on his wristbands. The manhole cover also has a good metallic finish, and properly enough, has the city of Dakota’s name sculpted across it.
There’s not a lot you can do with the figure, though. The options are pretty much limited to A) posing, B) punching, and C) riding the manhole cover, which is tricky because he can’t crouch down very far without his legs popping out of their sockets. The manhole cover fits decently into the lightning base, though it took a few tries to pull it off, and Static balances okay on it, though the peg on the manhole cover is pretty short.
Overall: A good figure, but kind of a disappointment. It’d be great to see Static and other Milestone characters such as Hardware and Icon represented in figure form, but allow for more options! This gets a slight bump due to the sculpt, but overall, it did not meet expectations.
'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
Unlike Static, Cyborg does come in a deluxe package, this featuring a sculpt and accessories based off the “Forever Evil” (or “Toujours Mal”) storyline.
Cyborg has had some decent and not-so-decent figures over the years - the impossible-to-find one from the 1980s Super Powers line had some great chrome pieces, and the one from the younger-oriented “Total Heroes” line a few years back is particularly good if you add some silver finish. Others make the character a bit stiff and limited, and of course there’s the issue of the character’s look – do you go old-school or more like the Teen Titans cartoon, or more technological? Already, many fans aren’t happy with his Iron Man-meets-aluminum foil look from the Justice League movie trailer, which you can complain about in the comments.This Cyborg has a pretty decent look - more all-over armor, but still humanoid and with the classic Vic Stone look of determination. There’s a good weathered metallic finish on the armor, which again, lets him look robotic while still humanoid.
Cyborg comes with the most accessories of any figure in this wave, hence the larger packaging and higher price point. To wit, there’s an interchangeable arm with cannon, and two forearm changes, a claw/cannon and what’s either another cannon or a drill (sure commentators can clarify). There’s also some extra hands and a large recharger battery with several wire attachments that can connect to the battery and Cyborg’s arm-weapons.
The battery and wires are kind of awkward. The instructions with the figure show where the wires plug in, but there are several extra holes in the battery that look like they could be plugs, but aren’t. When you do find the plugs, the wires (two smaller ones and one larger, thicker one) require a bit of forcing. It’s kind of odd that they plug into Cyborg’s weapon-arms, instead of, say, his extremities; instead of creating the sense that the character’s recharging his body/life support system, it’s more like he’s plugging in to use the high-powered weapons. If you’re particularly childish, this might create the mental image of his chasing a bad guy down the street with the battery plugged in and dragged behind him, creating sparks against the sidewalk, but obviously only someone with the maturity of a 12-year-old would think of that.
Overall: it’s a good set with some different display options – the interchangeable hands and arm pop in and out easily, so you can create your own preferred cyber-look. It’s not the all-time best version of the character, but it does the job.
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
So there were some winners and not-so-winners in this wave of DC Icons. There’s just enough that we hope this line continues – and that we get our Booster and Beetle pack. We need our Blue and Gold!