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By Thomas Wheeler

I was seriously starting to wonder if we were actually going to see any new Justice League Unlimited figures. I knew that quite a few new faces had been showcased at the 2007 International Toy Fair, despite the fact that the animated series is no longer on the air. The Justice League figures continue to be popular, there's a massive cast to work from, and Mattel, as master license holder for DC Comics, knows this.

Finally, the appearance of some new Justice League Unlimited three-packs to review. This is one of those three-packs, featuring HAWKMAN, ALT. FLASH, and ROCKET RED. Let's take this group in reverse order.

ROCKET RED - This is a figure that saw its initial release as a single- carded figure a while back. He was also extremely hard to find, because Rocket Red was the only real legitimate "army-builder" in the entire Justice League Unlimited line-up.

The Rocket Red units were a series of Soviet-built suits of super- powered and well-armed armor, designed to give the Soviet Union something of an edge in a world increasingly populated by meta-humans, very few of them within the USSR. Although the Soviet Union no longer exists, the Rocket Reds continue to serve the former Soviet Republics, mostly protecting the borders of these nations against super-powered incursions.

One Rocket Red was a member of the Justice League when the team maintained a more international motif for a time, but for the most part, the Rocket Reds have been homeland heroes, and in more recent times, aren't really too picky about who they'll pick a fight with, hero or villain, if that person tries to cross the wrong border. They've been a reasonably popular if infrequent presence in the DC Universe, and it's no real surprise that the figure of the Rocket Red has been equally popular, as well as an army-builder.

The only real difference between this Rocket Red and the one that came on an individual card, is that the three-pack version lacks the weapon that can be mounted to the shoulder, an unfortunate omission in my opinion, but the figure on its own is still cool.

ALT. FLASH - Obviously standing for "Alternate". This figure of the Flash, in a way, is representative of the alternate-universe Justice Lords, who were part of a particularly popular two-part storyline in the Justice League animated series before it added the "Unlimited" suffix and expanded its population exponentially.

There's just one little problem with this in my opinion -- the alternate- universe version of the Flash never technically appeared. In fact, it was his death in the alternate universe that was one of the reasons that universe's Justice League started taking a harder line with the bad guys and gradually became the Justice Lords.

However, there was one later episode, where manifestations of the Justice Lords appeared to the Justice League during a battle, and in this instance, an alternate version of The Flash did appear, and it could be construed that had the Flash of the alternate universe survived, and had that universe's Justice League still chosen to take a harsher path, this probably would have been the result.

This is not the first time this figure has been released. He was originally part of the second Justice Lords two-pack, which also features the Justice Lords versions of Martian Manhunter and Green Lantern, and initially led some people (myself included) to wonder if we would get a Justice Lords version of Hawkgirl, who had been present in that two-part episode, and whose appearance had been quite radically different than Hawkgirl as we knew her. Fortunately, a Justice Lords Hawkgirl would turn up not long after, as part of a Toys "R" Us exclusive three-pack that included slightly reworked versions of the Justice Lords' Superman and Batman.

As to this Alternate Flash, his costime design really lends him to taking on a second role - that of Professor Zoom, the Reverse Flash, and a legitimate adversary of The Flash. The costume is the precise opposite of The Flash -- mostly yellow with red trim, with a black circle on the chest with a red lightning bolt in it.

Honestly, since official animated continuity has the Justice Lords' Flash being deceased, I'm a lot more inclined to consider this a figure of Professor Zoom, but I leave that identification to your discretion. It's still an interesting figure, although its inclusion in an otherwise non-Justice Lords three-pack is a little odd.

HAWKMAN - Here's where things get complicated. Although Hawkman pretty much qualifies as one ofthe major players in the DC Universe, he wasn't one in the animated series. Hawkgirl was, and given the "Starcrossed" movie that presented the Thanagarian race which Hawkgirl came from as aggressive invaders, with no sign whatsoever of Hawkman during that storyline, it seemed that Hawkman wasn't likely to put in an appearance in the animated series. Ultimately, however, he did, but it wasn't that easy to work him in.

Honestly, though, Hawkman has had trouble with his backstory for years, in the comics, and part of the problem in my opinion has been repeated attempts to reconcile his Earth-1 and Earth-2 origins into one cohesive story, and frankly, most of them haven't worked out all that well.

The original Hawkman was introduced during the Golden Age of comics. This Hawkman was not an alien. He was believed to be the reincarnation of an Egyptian prince named Khufu. According to the Unofficial Guide to the DC Universe, the Hyksos conquered Lower Egypt and founded the Fifteenth dynasty, ruled by a cruel Pharaoh and his even crueler high priest Hath-Set. There was rebellion however from Prince Khufu Kha-Tarr, the latest in the long line of Hawk Avatars, helped by his true love, a Hyksos Noblewoman called Chay-Ara who despised the cruelty of her own people. Khufu used a mysterious Ninth Metal (which when charged with crude electrical cells allowed him to levitate) to fashion a harness, he also learned to control his flight by using special wings.

In the beginning of the 20th century Prince Khufu was reincarnated as Carter Hall. Carter would grow up to become a multimillionaire archaeologist with an interest in anti-gravity, or more specifically in the Ninth Metal used by the ancient Egyptians.

Eventually, he would become the original Hawkman, ultimately established as the Hawkman of Earth-2, home of most of the Golden Age heroes.

Forward in time a bit to the so-called Silver Age of comics, and you've got an entirely different Hawkman, who would essentially be established on Earth-1. This was a Thanagarian policeman who ventured to Earth to capture a dangerous criminal. This Hawkman's real name was Katar Hol, but he would eventually take the name of Carter Hall and remain on Earth to help defend the planet from various alien threats. He would also become an archaeologist. All Thanagarian policemen wore the hawk-like uniform, and used the massive bird-like wings powered by "Nth Metal".

Following the Crisis on Infinite Earths, various attempts were made to reconcile the two Hawkman origin stories into a single character. For the most part, these proved disastrous. The closest one to make some measure of sense and respect both characters was the notion that the ancient Egyptian Prince Khufu was in fact himself a Thanagarian, but over the next several years following the Crisis, there were so many reworkings of Hawkman's backstory that even DC realized it had gotten out of hand. During the next significant crisis which started messing with time and space, called Zero Hour, one particular glitch resulted in at least a dozen different Hawkmen appearing at once, ultimately formed into a single being.

And even this didn't work all that well. Ultimately, Hawkman wound up in a certain obscurity. There was even a rumor for a while that the character was going to be sold, loaned, or turned over to Marvel Comics to see if they could do anything with him, but this plan was either abandoned or was nothing more than a rumor in the first place.

In recent years, Hawkman was brought back, with a new storyline that tried once again, and succeeded somewhat better, to reconcile both the Egyptian and Thanagarian storylines, although a bit more of an emphasis was placed on the Thanagarian. However, complexities once again arose, since by this time, the new Hawkgirl character had achieved a certain prominence, and not just in the animated series, but in the comics as well, and so it was felt that some sort of bond had to be created between the two characters.

As for the animated version of the character, what we have is an attempt to use the best of both origin stories and throw away as much of the excess baggage as possible. Initially, Hawkman appeared as a hero obsessed with Hawkgirl. This was AFTER the Thanagarian invasion, I might add. It was revealed that Hawkman was Carter Hall, and he had some quirky notion that he and Hawkgirl were somehow meant for each other. Hawkgirl was less than impressed, and the same could be said for Green Lantern John Stewart, who had once had a romantic relationship with Hawkgirl, although this had fallen apart following the invasion. Stewart was currently seeing Vixen, although he clearly still had feelings for Hawlgirl, and Hawkgirl honestly didn't know where she stood.

In a later episode, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, and Green Lantern were brought together to experience a strange telling of a past in Egypt, apparently by their ancestors, previous incarnations, or whatever. This eased the feelings between Hawkman and Hawkgirl, and left Green Lantern feeling a little uncertain about everything.

As a superhero, the animated Hawkman was not officially a member of the Justice League, and honestly didn't seem all that great at being a super- hero. He was clearly an amateur, and tended to be a little scatterbrained as a result of his obsession with Hawkgirl. He tried his best, but had a bit of trouble being taken entirely seriously.

Fortunately, the figure is decently impressive. This is not the first Hawkman figure ever produced. That honor would go to an impressed specimen of winged hero that was part of the Super Powers line in the 1980's. A beautiful rendition of Hawkman's best-known likeness, the figure is hindered only in that the massive wings make him pretty back-heavy, and he doesn't stand up all that well on his own. A second version of Hawkman that did stand up on his own fairly well was one of Hawkman's more modern incarnations that was produced as part of the Legends of the Batman line. However, this figure wasn't all that well articulated, and one of the reasons he was able to stand up on his own was that his legs were pre-posed in such a way that allowed him to.

And now we have this version, and honestly, it's really an excellent figure. I've always tended to feel that, despite all the abuse the character has suffered in recent years, Hawkman, preferably in as classic a form as possible, is one of the DC Universe's more prominent and cooler heroes, arguably in the same ranks as DC's strong second tier of heroes, which would include the likes of Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman, Green Arrow, Martian Manhunter, and a few others. And this figure of Hawkman is a good animated-style version of the classic Hawkman.

The figure is wearing the bird-like helmet-mask, which manages to look impressive when one might otherwise think that wearing a feathered mask would look pretty silly. He has two large wings, yellow straps across his chest with a red circle with the hawk symbol in the middle of it, red trunks and boots, and green leggings. My one and only complaint about the figure is that the flesh tone painted on the face and neck does not quite match the flesh tone plastic used to mold the torso and arms.

One thing I am impressed with is that the figure doesn't have a lot of trouble standing up on his own. I fully expected another "back-heavy" figure like the Super Powers Hawkman, but I think what we have here is a case where thewings are lighter, and there's more bulk in the upper torso to provide a decent counterweight to the wings.

On the whole, this is an interesting three-pack. Although both Rocket Red and the Alternate Flash are previous releases, neither of them were all that common -- certainly Rocket Red wasn't. And even though Hawkman's appearances in the animated series were somewhat limited, and may have suffered some carryover from the nonsense the character's backstory has been through in the comic books in recent times, certainly Hawkman just in general is a well-known character in the DC Universe, and the figure of him is a superb animated-style rendition of Hawkman at his best and, indeed, most familiar.

I am truly pleased to see Justice League figures returning to the toy section, and I look forward to acquiring and reviewing quite a few of them. Meanwhile, the HAWKMAN, ALT. FLASH, and ROCKET RED three-pack of JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED figures certainly has my enthusiastic recommendation!