REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE GREEN LANTERN CLASSICS MANHUNTER ROBOT
If you were to ask a reasonably knowledgeable fan of DC Comics which hero -- and his particular corner -- of the DC Universe has undergone the greatest expansion and received the greatest push into the spotlight in recent years, the answer would unquestionably have to be -- Green Lantern.
With the return of Hal Jordan and the reformation of the Green Lantern Corps several years ago, Green Lantern received an updated, very slightly revised origin, the Green Lantern Corps received their own title, John Stewart and Guy Gardner were made active Lanterns again, Kyle Rayner remained on duty, and thanks to writer Geoff Johns, we were treated to the Sinestro Corps War, the assemblage of the Red Lanterns, the revelation of an entire color spectrum of emotion-based power, and the "Blackest Night" storyline which encompassed the entire DC Universe, even though it had Green Lantern's world as its focal point.
Now, with a live-action Green Lantern movie on the horizon, Mattel's superb line of DC Universe Classics action figures is being given an offshoot, in the form of the GREEN LANTERN CLASSICS, figures taken from the world of Green Lantern, his allies and enemies.
One of these represents -- not so much a character, but a force, which was created well before the present storylines. This is the MANHUNTER ROBOT, and he shall be the focus of this review.
It wasn't hard to spot the figure -- the packaging for the Green Lantern Classics figures is, understandably, mostly green, while the Manhunter Robot figure within the package is predominantly red. About the only way you'd lose sight of this guy is in a section of a store devoted to Christmas ornaments.
Technically speaking, the Manhunter Robot represents an "army-builder" within the DC Universe line. You can have as many of them as you can find and afford. There haven't been a lot of these within the DC Universe Classics line. To the best of my recollection, the only other ones to date have been the two versions of the Parademon, from several waves back. And frankly, I think the Manhunter Robot looks a little cooler.
Let's consider the history of the Manhunters, with a little online research. They were originally created by writer Steve Englehart and artist Dick Dillin, and had their first appearance in Justice League of America #140, in 1977. However, their history has since become far more concisely explained, and certainly more expansive.
The Manhunters were the first attempt by the Guardians of the Universe, millions of years ago, to create an interstellar police force that would combat evil across the cosmos. For thousands of years, they served the Guardians well. However, the Manhunters gradually became obsessed with the act of "hunting" criminals. Their code, "No man escapes the Manhunters" became more important to them than seeing justice done.
Eventually, the robots conspired to rebel against their masters, but the Guardians of the Universe defeated and destroyed most of them. Those that survived hid away on many planets, slowly rebuilding their forces and spreading their beliefs to others. Since that time, the over-riding goal of the Manhunters has been to take revenge on the Guardians, as well as on their replacements, the Green Lantern Corps.
The Guardians of the Universe believed that their Manhunters had failed because their programming was too regimented and too strict in some respects, and that, as robots, they lacked the ability to closely interpret a given situation, and see a wider possibility of solutions. This was one of the main reasons that the Guardians established the Green Lantern Corps, an organization of living beings.
Over time, the Manhunters infiltrated many planets disguised as living beings, and many of them trained others to be their minions. On Mars, the people of that world started a group of Martian Manhunters based on the lessons of preserving justice taught to them by the Manhunters. On Earth, most of the Manhunters' agents were unaware that their masters were robots, or that their real purpose was not noble. Some of these agents became super-heroes known as Manhunters. They wore red-and-blue costumes patterned after the Manhunters themselves.
The most famous of these was Paul Kirk, a big game hunter. He was active in the 1940's, and starred in his own comic book. The character was brought back in the 1970's in a celebrated series illustrated by Walt Simonson. In this series, he had supposedly been killed years before, but was in truth placed in suspended animation by a secret organization. He was cloned, and when he finally awoke, he dedicated himself to battling those who had used him, including killing as many of the clones as possible.
The Manhunter robots were eventually discovered by the Justice League, who seemingly defeated the Manhunters' leader, known as the Grandmaster.
Years later, it was revealed that the Manhunters not only still existed, but had infiltrated the lives of most super-heroes with their agents. They revealed themselves when a Guardian and a member of the Zamaron race tried to "evolve" some Human beings into becoming the next Guardians of the Universe, during the "Millennium" storyline. On this occasion, there was a massive counterstrike operation by the heroes against the Manhunters, and it seemed that the Grandmaster had finally been destroyed, along with their hidden home planet.
Kyle Rayner first encountered the Manhunters not long after Hal Jordan destroyed the Central Power Batter on Oa. They were seen as sentient individuals, and captured Kyle in an attempt to use the last remaining Green Lantern ring - his - for their own purposes. Ultimately, Kyle escaped.
Subsequently, the Manhunters retreated to Biot, their chosen homeworld in Sector 3601, an uncharted area of space. Hank Henshaw, the Cyborg Superman, came to Biot and became the Manhunters' new Grandmaster. He used his mastery over machinery and Kryptonian technology to upgrade the Manhunters, including with organic enhancements.
The Manhunters then resurfaced as part of the Sinestro Corps. In addition to Henshaw's enhancements, they each carry miniature yellow Power Batteries inside them, which are used by the Sinestro Corps members to charge their power rings.
In the Green Lantern: Secret Origin storyline, which rewrote some aspects of Green Lantern's origin, but truthfully expanded on many more, it was revealed that the Manhunters suffered a programming glitch that caused them to wipe out all life in space sector 666, believing it to be evil. It was this event that gave rise top the Five Inversions, the only survivors of the massacre, and later to the Red Lanterns, led by one of the Inversions, Atrocitus, on his homeworld of Ysmault, who has vowed to destroy the Guardians, the Green Lanterns, the Sinestro Corps, and anybody else that reminds him of the destruction of his homeworld. One would assume he's not terribly favorably disposed towards Manhunters, either.
During the events of Blackest Night, it was revealed that Amanda Waller and King Faraday had a deactivated Manhunter in their possession, having recovered it from a swamp. Waller sends the Manhunter to Belle Reve Prison in order to assist the Secret Six and the Suicide Squad in their battle against the Black Lantern Corps. Waller ultimately uses a self-destruct mechanism to destroy the Manhunter, unleashing an explosion of Green Lantern energy that eradicates the Black Lanterns.
Manhunter technology was also used in the creation of the OMAC Drones, part of the Infinite Crisis storyline.
Outside of the comic books, the Manhunters have appeared in the Justice League episode "In Blackest Night". Here they were seen as enforcers of justice, bringing in Green Lantern John Stewart for a crime which, ultimately, he did not commit. Like their comic counterparts, they preceded the Green Lantern Corps, but according to the Guardians, "they couldn't understand the subtle gradations between good and evil", and so were reprogrammed for other tasks. Although the Manhunters did not overtly express resentment for this demotion, they began secretly plotting their revenge against the Guardians for the perceived betrayal. A Justice League animated version action figure of the Manhunters has recently been produced, and two of them are available in a three-pack with a John Stewart figure.
So, how's the figure? The Green Lantern Classics figure, that is. Well, pretty cool. One thing about the Manhunters is that they've been open to a little more artistic interpretation than most over the years. Sometimes they've been portrayed as about the same size as human beings. Other times they've been portrayed as distinctly taller. Sometimes they've seemed relatively human in their design, certain inevitable robotic particulars notwithstanding, other times they've looked distinctly robotic, with more cylindrical limbs and even torsos, lacking human-type musculature. Generally speaking, their basic design, insofar as color and "costume details" has remained relatively consistent.
I think as much as anything, what Mattel tried to capture with this figure was a fair representation of the Manhunter robot that was respectful to previous incarnations as much as possible, while still being relatively consistent within the DC Universe Classics action figure line, with a decided bent towards the most recent appearances of the Manhunters, which makes sense since this Green Lantern Classics line is certainly a modern-inspired line. In this, they have succeeded admirably, for the most part.
The Manhunter stands the same height as most DC Universe Classics figures, and is mostly red. He has a silver, rather robotic face, vertical, angled striping down his front, in metallic blue, a metallic blue belt, metallic blue bands painted around his upper legs, right at the articulation point, and metallic blue gauntlets and boots, which are distinctive sculpts to the figure. In a slight nod to the Guardians' later tendency towards green, there are metallic green details, oval-shaped sculpted details, on the gauntlets and boots.
The Manhunter robot does not have a typical humanoid head. Although the face is reasonably humanoid in appearance, the shape of the head is sort of an extended dome -- really, I'd almost say it's shaped like a large thimble, as much as anything. Relative to the scale of the figures, though, I should really check their previous appearances when they were drawn like this, and see if any of their opponents had the guts to call them "bucket-head", because it certainly fits. So would "no-neck".
The head, like most of the body, is red in color, and virtually featureless, except for the silver face emerging from the front. The head is fairly humanoid, but with sharper angles to it than an organic face would have. The face has somewhat deepset, red, pupil-less eyes. Arguably the most human-looking aspect to the face is the mouth, which is open in an angry snarl, with surprisingly human-looking teeth within.
Given the fact that the upper body of the Manhunter robot uses the same molds that most male DC Universe Classics figures use -- and as such customarily has a neck -- an additional piece had to be attached to complete the unusual look of the head and upper body of the Manhunters. This comes in the form of a wide, ridged collar, also molded in read, that comes up right to the base of the head, and extends down slightly in the front and back, and slightly over the shoulders. Again, this is in keeping with the overall look of the Manhunters, at least how some of the artists have drawn them over the years.
The torso and arms are fairly standard, until we get to the lower arms. Here we have distinctive molds, essentially gauntlets, painted in metallic blue. They are thick and highly detailed, with a raised framework, internal ridges, and an outer-facing detail area that includes the green oval and some additional ridged detailing. The hands are red and of fairly normal appearance.
The legs are normal up to a point. The first evidence of detailing is a thick metallic blue stripe on each leg, placed just above the articulation swivel. These stripes, which are painted on, and not sculpted in, each have two thin black lines inside of them, simulating ridges.
The boots are extremely distinctive, including the feet, which is somewhat unusual in my opinion. I've seen any number of unusual lower legs on DC Universe Classics figures, depending on boot needs. Blue Devil, Golden Pharaoh, among others. But unique feet are somewhat more unusual.
The boots are similar to the lower arms, in that they have raised sections, ridges, and other details, including more green ovals, two at the top of each boot, and one on each foot. Really, given the comparative plain-ness of the rest of the Manhunter, the boots are incredibly ornate. It would be like a person getting the blandest haircut imaginable, dressing in the simplest T-shirt and jeans he could find -- and then putting on the highest-priced, fanciest-looking athletic shoes on the face of the planet. I'm not saying that it doesn't look cool, and it's certainly an impressive sculpt, but you sort of wonder, in-concept, what the Guardians were thinking.
Paintwork is neat on the entire figure. The basic red has a slight metallic to it, barely perceptible. The blue trim actually has a more metallic look to it than the silver on the face!
For an accessory, the Manhunter Robot comes with a green lantern. This is not as non-sequitur as it seems. The background information on the Manhunters states that originally, the Manhunters used special energy pistols which were charged by the green lanterns which they carried. The Manhunter doesn't have a pistol, but he does have a lantern. And yet it is clearly a more primitive-looking lantern than what the modern Green Lanterns use. It is far more square and boxy in shape. I'm not criticizing the accessory. It's supposed to look like this, and in that regard, Mattel has done an excellent job with it.
Any complaints? Yes. One aspect of the articulation, and I knew this day was coming. Early pictures of Wave 16 of DC Universe Classics figures, which as of this writing I have yet to see in person, and of some figures in this Green Lantern Classics wave, showed that some figures would be given double-jointed articulation at either the knees or elbows, or both. The Manhunter robot has double-jointed knees.
This has become a popular thing to do in certain action figure lines, supposedly increasing the range of motion of action figures to more "real-human" levels. Let me say a few things about that, some of which admittedly I have said before. The most important, and the most basic, of those things is this -- I'm all in favor of a good range of motion in action figures. The days when a figure could be just articulated at the head, arms, and legs, and get away with it, are long gone. HOWEVER -- when the level of articulation gets to a point where it has a noticeably adverse effect on the look of an action figure, when the end result looks less like a character and more like some sort of construct, even if that's what action figures are, then it's time to back off a bit. And I believe that line gets crossed with double-jointed elbows and knees.
With only two exceptions, I have yet to see ANY action figure line that could get away with double-jointed limbs. Those exceptions are Gundam -- which are robots anyway and can stretch the envelope of a humanoid appearance (far more than the fairly human-looking Manhunter, I might add), and certain 12" G.I. Joes, who are not only wearing cloth uniforms to conceal all the rivets and such, but also have SLENDER ENOUGH LIMBS under the clothes, so that the movement of the limbs seems fairly natural.
This brings me to my third point. The human body is a fairly flexible thing. Far more so than hard plastic. Our arms and legs can move to the degree that they do because our bodies are not completely solid. Trying to allow for a greater range of motion in a solid action figure by installing basically two points of articulation where, in reality, only one major point exists, results in a movement that does not look at all natural on the figure. Okay, maybe he can tuck his legs in further, or bring his arm up further -- but he doesn't look too right doing it.
Speaking of looks, this leads me to the fourth and final point. That extra articulation required extra parts. In the case of the DC Universe Classics figures, rather than, in the case of the Manhunter Robot, going from upper leg, to lower leg, with a peg holding the two parts together and allowing for their movement, you have the upper leg, the knee, and the lower leg, with two rivets holding all of these parts together, and frankly looking like heck from just about any angle. The knee sticks out in the front, the rivets look like heck on the sides, and the separation between upper and lower leg is glaringly obvious on the back.
What's really unfortunate is the deceptiveness of the early photos. There's a picture of the prototype of the Manhunter on the back, and it almost doesn't look too bad. The knee-joint is pretty flush with both the upper and lower legs, and the rivets appear to be pretty small. Compare that with the production level figure, where the knee-joint is anything but, and the rivets are glaringly obvious. That is simply the unavoidable result of mass production. I wouldn't even care if there were a way to conceal the rivets, there's no way to conceal the separation of upper and lower leg on the back of the figure, or the "cut" it makes into the musculature of the figure.
No action figure looks good with this sort of thing inflicted on it, and the DC Universe Classics figures are really such works of art, that it's a downright tragedy to inflict it on them, especially. And the ultimate sad part of it is -- it really isn't necessary. These figures have a superb range of motion. They don't need to be any more poseable than they already are, and they look perfectly fine as it.
I have little choice but to accept the figures that this is being done to, but I don't have to like it, and I don't, I will continue to speak out against it, and it is my sincere hope and prayer that it is a very short-lived aberration in one of the finest action figure lines ever created, that deserves a hell of a lot better than this being done to it.
And, in the case of the Manhunter, his lower left leg is a bit loose. Now, I've encountered loose points of articulation on DC Universe Classics figures before, and worse than this, but I can't help but wonder if it wouldn't've happened if the design had been left as it should've been. But I realize that's nit-picking.
Ultimately, the Manhunter Robot is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, ankles -- and excessively so at the knees.
So, what's my final word? I'll admit, somebody who's mostly red looks a little strange on a package that's mostly green. But the Manhunters are an established part of the Green Lantern portion of the DC Universe, and they've stirred up trouble well beyond, for that matter. If you're inclined, and able, to "army build" him, you can round up as many Manhunters as possible for your collection. And -- knees aside, it really is a superb action figure.
The DC UNIVERSE GREEN LANTERN CLASSICS figure of the MANHUNTER ROBOT definitely has my highest recommendation.