REVIEW:DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS GREEN LANTERN FIVE-PACK
Mattel has planned an extension of its highly popular line of DC Universe Classics action figures. This extension will focus on the universe of GREEN LANTERN.
I find this very interesting, and amusing in one respect. The precursor to the DC Universe Classics line was DC Super-Heroes, which was very centered on Batman and Superman. No great surprise there, since those are assuredly DC Comics' two best-known heroes.
And now, Green Lantern is getting his own dedicated line! I don't have a problem with this, since I've always liked the character. And, given the science-fiction, outer space nature of some of his adventures, he can get away with having a distinct line better than some. But, one might ask, what's made GL a contender for something like this in the first place?
I think the answer to that is -- Geoff Johns. One of DC's top creative forces, he took the Green Lantern title and concept and expanded its universe mightily. First he retold and enhanced Green Lantern's origin. Then he gave Green Lantern's longtime foe, Sinestro, his own Corps, to oppose the universe-spanning Green Lantern Corps. After that, multi-colored Lanterns and their respective Corps started coming out of the woodwork, all leading up to the mini-series "Blackest Night", the effects of which are still being felt throughout the DC Universe in the follow-up series, "Brightest Day".
All of these new adventures, all of these new Corps, resulted in a serious population explosion in Green Lantern's corner of the DC Universe, and a lot of these characters are lining up and demanding to be rendered in plastic by the Four Horsemen and Mattel. They could easily overwhelm the DC Universe Classics line, so, entirely logically, they're being given their own line instead. Fine by me.
A five-pack of DC Universe Classics figures, exclusive to Walmart, offers us what I believe is a preview of things to come. Although clearly labeled with the DC Universe Classics logo, the main package color, although styled in the same fashion as a DC Universe Classics package, is nevertheless GREEN, not the orange-gold of a standard DC Universe Classics package. The set is titled GREEN LANTERN'S LIGHT, and it features five members of the Green Lantern Corps from various stages of its history, including Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Tomar-Re, Sinestro, and Guy Gardner.
I think a little history of the Green Lantern Corps itself is called for at this point, before I delve into the individual characters and figures. So, with a little online research...
The Green Lantern Corps is the name of a intergalactic police force appearing in the DC Universe. They patrol the farthest reaches of the Universe at the behest of the Guardians; a race of immortals residing on the planet Oa. The Green Lantern Corps has been in existence for three billion years; surviving multiple conflicts both internal and foreign. Divided as pairs amongst the 3600 "sectors" of the universe, over 7200 members (known commonly as Green Lanterns) are estimated as serving within the Corps. Each Green Lantern is given a power ring, a weapon granting the use of incredible abilities that are directed by the wearer's own willpower.
In their first attempt to enforce their will and guard against menaces of all sorts, about 3.5 billion years ago the Guardians created a legion of robotic sentinels called the Manhunters. At first serving faithfully to enforce order, in time the Manhunters came to resent their servitude and the moral restrictions the guardians decreed of them. They were also found to be inherently flawed due to their inability to recognize or feel emotions. They rebelled against the Guardians and fought a millennia long war that culminated with an attack on the planet Oa. The Guardians overcame their android servants, stripped them of their power, and banished them across the universe.
Hastened by the failure of the Manhunters, the Guardians decided that their newest force of soldiers for good would consist of living beings, ones who had free will and strong moral character. To arm this new legion of celestial knights, the Guardians created the Power Rings, rings of inconceivably-advanced technology that allowed their wearers to project green beams of energy with which the bearer could conjure objects of any size or shape, limited only by their imagination and willpower.
For further extensive details, I recommend the Wikipedia entry on the Green Lantern Corps. Now, let's consider the individual figures in this set.
HAL JORDAN - Arguably the best known Green Lantern, Hal Jordan was created by John Broome and Gil Kane, and first appeared in Showcase #22, in October 1959. He served as Green Lantern for decades, until the destruction of his hometown of Coast City during the "Return of Superman" storyline seemingly unbalanced him. In 1994, he destroyed the Guardians, many of the Green Lanterns, and absorbed the power of the Central Battery, becoming the villain Parallax. He was the main antagonist of the mini-series Zero Hour, before giving his life to save the Earth in the mini-series Final Night. He returned briefly as a new incarnation of The Spectre, before abandoning this role and returning as Green Lantern in the 2004 series, "Green Lantern: Rebirth".
Of course, Hal Jordan's basic origin is rather well known. Jordan is a test pilot, and after alien Green Lantern Abin Sur crash-landed on Earth, fatally injured, he used his ring to seek out a worthy replacement. That replacement was Jordan, a man seemingly without fear. Jordan's origin was expanded upon in a mini-series contained within his own most recent title, once again the work of Geoff Johns, and has since been compiled into a trade edition of its own, titled "Green Lantern: Secret Origin", which I highly recommend.
Now, this is hardly the first time Hal Jordan has been presented in the DC Universe Classics line. He first turned up in Series Three, soon followed by a slightly different version in a two-pack alongside Abin Sur. There's also a version out there with a metallic finish and a slight uniform alteration (his modern uniform is slightly different than his classic version) that as of this writing I have yet to locate -- and it hasn't been for lack of trying.
So, what makes this version of Jordan so special? Well, there's the grey hair around the temples. So -- why is Jordan trying to do an impression of Reed Richards? When it was first introduced, I am certain that it was just seen as a way of showing that even super-heroes age, of maybe making GL just a little more distinctive somehow. Since that time, however, it's been retroactively explained that the grey hair was a sign of Jordan's possession by Parallax, the fear entity that technically rules the yellow range of the emotional spectrum of light, which is showcased by Sinestro and his Corps. These days, Jordan's hair is grey-free.
Still, the figure is an interesting addition to the Green Lantern collection, and moreover to the Hal Jordan collection. If you have all four, it is entirely possible to do a visual timeline. The Hal Jordan that comes with the Abin Sur figure in the two pack has black shoulders, not green, which was the original costume design, and which is now considered a sort of "rookie" design. So you'd stand him first. Then you can put the Series Three Green Lantern next. Then this one with the grey hair. Both the Series Three Green Lantern and this one are wearing the standard Green Lantern uniform -- mostly green, with black sleeves and leggings, green boots, white gloves, and the Green Lantern insignia on the chest, and the ring on the second finger of the right hand. There are no figures of Green Lantern as Parallax or Spectre (no big loss in my opinion), but then if you can find the Toys "R" Us exclusive one in his most modern uniform, you can finish with that.
These figures are all so spread out that I'm reasonably certain it wasn't deliberate on Mattel's part, but it would still make for an interesting display.
SINESTRO - You may be saying, "Wait, I thought he was a bad guy." Well, true. He has been long established as one of Green Lantern's most ardent foes. His yellow power ring was able to take advantage of a weakness that existed in Green Lantern's own ring. And these days, he is the leader of the evil Sinestro Corps, a murderous band of psychotics that use fear as the motivating power of their rings, to spread terror across the universe.
But, it has long since been "retconned" that he was not only once a Green Lantern, but one of the best, as well as the person who trained Hal Jordan. However, Sinestro used his power ring to take over his homeworld of Korugar, imposing his own personal sense of order on the planet. He was found out -- by Jordan -- and expunged from the Green Lantern Corps, and exiled to the anti-matter universe -- where, in fact, he came across the first yellow power ring and started causing even more trouble than before.
So, let's say that this figure represents Sinestro before he went bad. This isn't the first Sinestro figure in the DC Universe Classics line, which is also why I'm not going that in-depth a background on him. I'll save that for the new characters in this set. But in the case of Green Lantern Sinestro, we do have an interesting situation figure-wise.
Generally speaking, Sinestro has been portrayed as a man with a good physique, but still more slender than the traditional "super-hero build". When Mattel added his figure to the DC Universe Classics line, they made two versions -- his classic uniform and his Sinestro Corps uniform. Both were based on the same set of body molds, which were distinctive to the character, and were indeed designed to present a somewhat thinner build. But something happened along the way, either in the sculpt or the production, I'm not sure which, that rendered Sinestro distinctly SHORTER than average, as well, something he should NOT have been, and which caused a fair amount of controversy at the time, to the point where Mattel even took the dramatic step of remaking the figure, part of a "running change", with a slightly longer neck, to give him a bit more height.
The Green Lantern Sinestro figure, on the other hand, uses the same head as the DC Universe Classics Sinestro, as one would expect it to, but then it uses the same standard male body molds as the other figures in the set. This presents us with a Green Lantern Sinestro that is the proper height, but is just a little too muscular, and the head, with its larger than usual cranium, almost seems too small against the standard body.
This is, however, a relatively minor complaint. It's still a cool figure, and certainly presents an interesting part of the past of the Green Lantern storyline. Sinestro is wearing the traditional Green Lantern uniform, same as Hal Jordan, and it's overall an excellent figure.
JOHN STEWART - Three of the five figures in this set -- Jordan, Sinestro, and Tomar-Re, are all dressed identically. Two -- Stewart and Gardner, are more distinctive. The uniform worn by John Stewart in this set may not be either his most traditional or his most recent, but it's still pretty cool, and certainly represents a significant point in his life.
John Stewart was created by Dennis O'Neill and Neal Adams, and debuted in Green Lantern #87 in December 1971. He is an architect and a veteran United States Marine who was selected by the Guardians of the Universe to act as Hal Jordan's backup. Jordan initially objected, given Stewart's initially belligerent attitude towards authority figures, but the Guardians stood by their decision.
During the 1980's, a time when Hal Jordan gave up being Green Lantern, Stewart took his place full time, and filled that role for several years, during which time he married fellow Green Lantern Katma Tui.
His life slowly unraveled after this, after his ring was rendered powerless by Sinestro, and Katma Tui was murdered. Stewart was falsely accused of murdering Star Sapphire, and then imprisoned in the nation of South Nambia under false allegations of theft. He was eventually freed by Hal Jordan, and acquired a new power ring.
Afterwards, Stewart left Earth for space, where he participated in a mini-series called "Cosmic Odyssey". Here, he failed to prevent the destruction of the planet Xanshi by an avatar of the Anti-Life Equation. This series of tragedies left Stewart a shattered man on the brink of suicide.
John eventually forgave himself for his past mistakes, and grew into a stronger, more complex hero when he became the caretaker of the "Mosaic World", a patchwork of communities that had been brought to the planet Oa by an insane Guardian. Although bitter and sullen at his assignment at first, he overcame this, and using his formidable intellect and talent for unconventional thinking, Stewart forged the Mosaic into a new society and eventually became known as the Master Builder. Ultimately, however, this was all undone when Hal Jordan, as Parallax, destroyed the Guardians and the Central Power Battery.
Following the collapse of the Green Lantern Corps, Stewart was recruited by the Controllers to command the Darkstars, another interstellar peacekeeping force. Using the new resources at his command, John evacuated the Mosaic cities from Oa prior to its destruction and served the Darkstars with distinction until he was crippled in battle with Grayven on the planet Rann. John eventually regained the use of his legs as a parting gift from Hal Jordan before he sacrificed himself at the end of the "Final Night" mini-series. Eventually, Stewart accepted a power ring from Kyle Rayner, the then-current Green Lantern, and served with the Justice League while Rayner took an extended leave of absence from Earth. Today, Stewart serves with the revitalized Green Lantern Corps with distinction.
I tried to emphasize the "Mosiac" paragraph there a bit, since that is the costume design given to this figure of John Stewart. There has already been one DC Universe Classics figure of John, in his modern uniform, that was offered as part of Series 11 of the individual figures.
The uniform is interesting, and certainly represents a time when the Green Lanterns were dressing more individually. The bulk of the costume is black. It has a green collar that extends to the shoulders and into a point on the back. The front has a hugely enlarged and stylized version of the Green Lantern emblem, a green circle against a white circular background, tapering into a narrow vertical green line that tapers into green trunks. Stewart's boots are green, and his gloves are white, with the Green Lantern ring. Interestingly, the gloves on this figure have a sculpted edge to them, rather than just being painted on as part of the overall design.
Although "Mosaic" was relatively short-lived, and perhaps isn't even that well remembered today, it's nevertheless a very interesting uniform design for a character whose prominence in the DC Universe has certainly risen in recent years. Stewart's presence as the main Green Lantern in the Justice League animated series certainly didn't hurt matters in this regard.
One small complaint -- there's a bit of a mold defect on the head, a line down one side of his face. This is a quality control issue, and one that I would hope not to see often. It used to happen quite bit with action figures from any number of lines and companies, and I've always found it very aggravating, especially on figures' faces! Let's be careful, Mattel! You've worked out a lot of your quality control issues. Let's not have any recurrences.
TOMAR-RE - One of two new characters in this fine boxed set, and one of the first really prominent alien Green Lanterns -- Abin Sur notwithstanding -- created in the concept.
Tomar-Re first came along in Green Lantern #6, in a story by John Broome and Gil Kane. He was a scientist on the planet Xudar before joining the Green Lantern Corps, and eventually became a member of their Honor Guard. He was also the first Green Lantern to meet Hal Jordan. The two got along well, and became good friends over the years.
Tomar's most famous mission while serving in the Corps dealt with the planet Krypton, which was located in sector 2813 (Earth is in 2814). The planet was growing increasingly unstable and was due to explode. Tomar-Re sought to use a rare compound called stellarium to absorb some of the tectonic pressure, thus saving the Kryptonians. He gathered the compound, and was en route to Krypton when he was blinded by a yellow solar flare, which also caused him to drop the stellarium. He quickly recovered, but discovered that he was temporarily blind, and there was no time to lose. He gathered what stellarium he could find and raced to Krypton. He was closing in when his vision started to clear, and the first thing he saw was Krypton exploding.
Tomar-Re blamed himself for the incident, but was absolved by the Guardians. He was in retirement during the time of the Crisis on Infinite Earths, but nevertheless returned to action, and was tragically killed in battle by the villain known as Goldface. He selected John Stewart to receive his ring, which forced Stewart's ring to go to Hal Jordan, bringing Jordan out of his own retirement. Tomar-Re has since been succeeded in the Green Lantern Corps by his son, Tomar-Tu.
Visually, there's no missing a Xudarian. Although humanoid, their heads are highly unusual. They have yellow-orange skin, bird-like beaks, large pointed ears, and ridged fins on the tops of their heads.
Technically, Tomar-Re is not the first Xudarian to appear in the DC Universe Classics line. That honor belongs to Romat-Ru, a member of the Sinestro Corps, who was available in a two-pack a while back. Tomar-Re has a similar headsculpt to Romat, but it's not the same. For one thing, Tomar-Re is wearing a mask. Romat-Ru is not. Tomar-Re also has a slightly darker skin tone, but admittedly this is just a matter of paint. However, the sculpted lines in the head fin are different between the two, and Tomar-Re's ears are not quite as pronounced. So it really is a different head sculpt.
Otherwise, Tomar-Re is entirely humanoid, and is wearing a traditional Green Lantern uniform. This does, however, present one little problem. If one takes note of Romat-Ru, or for that matter available illustrations of Tomar-Re, he's only got three fingers on his hands, not four, which we must surmise is typical for Xudarians. The figure uses the same hands as it does for anyone else. Now, admittedly, this would've required a new set of hands. Romat-Ru's could not have been used. His Sinestro Corps ring is on the opposite hand, and looks different, anyway.
I'm not going to complain too much here, but it is an error, and it would've been nice to have had it done entirely correctly. Otherwise, however, no complaints, and I'm immensely pleased to have a Tomar-Re figure, especially with that bad guy Romat-Ru hanging around here.
GUY GARDNER - Okay, as much as anyone in the set, I think Guy Gardner was one of the main reasons for doing this five-pack. He is dramatically different and certainly more complex in design and construction than the other four, out of necessity. And Mattel certainly did an incredible job with him.
Not to malign the other figures. I'm pleased to have them all. But three of them -- Jordan, Sinestro, and Tomar-Re, have identical bodies. Two of them use existing heads -- Sinestro and Jordan, with a slight variation to Jordan's hair paint. Tomar-Re has a new head. John Stewart has been used before, as well, although admittedly his figure in this set required some impressive new paint stencils.
I am not a toy production expert. But it does seem to me that several of the members of this set were likely easier than others, and certainly the one requiring the most is unquestionably GUY GARDNER. And boy, does he have a history.
Gardner was first introduced in Green Lantern #59, in 1968. As it is told, when Abin Sur crashed on Earth, his power ring sought and found two potential successors - Gardner and Jordan. Jordan was closer to the crash, so he was chosen. Gardner was relegated to backup status should anything happen to Jordan.
Later, during an earthquake, Gardner was hit by a bus while attempting to rescue someone, and during his recovery, John Stewart was selected to be Jordan's new backup. Gardner later wound up in the Phantom Zone, of all places, for a time, and when he emerged, he was diagnosed with brain damage and was comatose for a number of years.
Gardner had not had the easiest life to begin with. He was raised in Baltimore, but was on the wrong end of an abusive and alcoholic father. During his mid-teens, Gardner became a juvenile delinquent until straightened out by his older brother, who was a police officer, Gardner eventually went to college, earning bachelor's degrees in education and psychology from the University of Michigan, where he also played football until suffering a career-ending injury.
After college, he worked as a social welfare caseworker, dealing with prison inmates and their rehabilitation. He abandoned this line of work, however, fearing it brought out his aggressive nature, and became a teacher for children with disabilities.
During the events of the Crisis on Infinite Earths, a split among the Guardians of the Universe saw a faction of the Guardians wishing to take stronger measures against the forces of evil in the galaxy. They revived Gardner and gave him a power ring.
Gardner's brain damage manifested itself in the form of an overtly arrogant, violent, and even unstable personality. Eventually, Gardner was part of a new version of the Justice League, after the original Justice League of America disbanded. He was not, shall it be said, the best of team players, although he somehow managed to strike up a romance with fellow League member Ice.
Hal Jordan eventually returned from a lengthy mission away from Earth, and intended to resume his role as the primary Green Lantern of sector 2814. Gardner, in response, challenged him to a fight, in which the loser would quit the Corps. Gardner lost, but not long after, traveled to Oa, where he turned up Sinestro's yellow power ring (Sinestro being deceased at the time).
Thus Gardner, now calling himself just "Guy Gardner", returned to action, and eventually rejoined the League. Following this, Gardner discovered that he had a certain amount of alien DNA in him, which allowed his body to create armor and weapons, and he began calling himself Warrior. He was thought to have been killed in the "Our Worlds at War" storyline, but this proved not to be the case.
Not too long after, the "Green Lantern: Rebirth" mini-series took place. Gardner's alien DNA was somehow overwritten by his human DNA, and Gardner regains the use of a Green Lantern power ring. It was revealed that much of his increasingly aggressive behavior was the result of using Sinestro's ring for as long as he did. He still has no shortage of attitude, but he's more of a team player than he used to be, more respectful to other heroes, and is once again a major player in the Green Lantern Corps, with a costume based very much on the one created for him during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and is even a part of the Green Lantern Honor Guard. In this new role, Gardner is expected to "think outside the box" and "do the jobs other Lanterns can't" -- certainly a function well-suited to his irascible personality.
So, how's the figure? Absolutely outstanding! Mattel has done an amazing job here. Gardner's headsculpt is perfect. Gardner has a slightly exaggerated face to begin with, and the Four Horsemen have done a superb job of rendering it without making it look too cartoonish. The smart-alecky grin is not excessive, and the overall facial features are perfect. Gardner wears his reddish hair in a sort of bowl cut, with shorter hair on the rest of his head, and this has been sculpted with great precision.
Gardner's costume is very atypical for a Green Lantern. He is wearing a black turtleneck, with a high-collared green vest with white borders, and the Green Lantern emblem on it. He has a thick white belt, white stripes down the legs, and thick padded green boots.
The vest has been designed as a separate piece, put into place during assembly. I've seen this a few times on the DC Universe Classics line, although it's a practice generally more common to Justice League Unlimited.
The amount of detail is absolutely incredible. Here is where most of the new parts went. Along with the vest, Gardner also has distinctive gloves and bots. The tops of his gloves and boots, as well as his belt, have these designs in them that are made to look as if an additional strap runs back and forth through their tops. The degree to which this has been sculpted to look precisely correct is incredible. Gardner's belt has a silver buckle and small silver rivets around it's entire perimeter. The trim on the vest and collar has visible stitching, as well as a button at the right spot. The boots are appropriately bulky-looking, even the feet.
Really, it sounds like overstatement, but this figure is the Four Horsemen at their finest, crafting a highly distinctive figure, that still uses enough of the established DC Universe Classics parts to perfectly blend in with the rest of the line. This Guy Gardner figure is really an amazing and incredible piece of work.
Of course, all five figures are superbly articulated. Each one is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. Each one also comes with his own Lantern Battery, the Green Lanterns that give the Corps their name. Gotta keep those power rings charged!
So, what's my final word here? Hey, I've been a fan of Green Lantern even before he rose to his present prominence. No one needs to convince me that GL and his growing corner of the DC Universe is a cool place with cool characters. I've known that for a long time. And I'm truly delighted to be able to add to the ranks of the Green Lanterns in my collection of DC Universe Classics figures. Guy Gardner may be a standout, but truly, they're ALL cool, and if you're any sort of Green Lantern, or DC Universe, fan, then you'll definitely want to round up this amazing set for yourself.
The DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS "GREEN LANTERN'S LIGHT" FIVE-PACK definitely has my highest recommendation!