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By Thomas Wheeler

Recently I provided a review of new Justice League Unlimited figures GREEN ARROW and DOCTOR FATE. Well, some more have turned up since then, and are deserving of review.

Let's start with THE ATOM. This figure was discovered on a single card, not in one of the three-packs. And although many of the figures sold on single cards are nothing more than slight repaints of existing characters, some given what looks like high-tech circuitry woven into their costumes, such as Batman, Superman, and Green Lantern, while others, such as Flash, Hawkgirl, Batman, and Superman, are presented in a ridiculous "battle damaged" format, there are a few of the new faces in here. The aforementioned Green Arrow and Doctor Fate are on single cards, and so is The Atom.

The Atom's story: Professor Ray Palmer discovered a fragment of a burned-out white dwarf star. Using this, he developed a method of shrinking himself, and select inanimate objects, down to sub-microscopic size. But just because he's small, doesn't mean he should be underestimated. The Atom is possessed of a genius intellect, arguably the closest thing the DC Universe has to Marvel's Reed Richards. The Atom has been instrumental in many cases for the JLA in the comics, not the least of which were during the DC One Million mini-series and the JLA Heaven's Ladder special.

The figure is cool. Not surprisingly, it's one of the shorter ones, coming up at less then 4-1/2". His accessory, just as unsurprisingly, is a tiny little version of himself. The figure has the standard articulation -- head, arms, legs. The only problem with the Atom is that he could really use some knee articulation. The feet are molded in such a way that standing this figure is next to impossible. The feet are bent upwards, and he just doesn't want to remain standing. I'll address this among some other issues as the review concludes.

Next we have AQUAMAN. He is sold in a three-pack with a Batman and Wonder Woman figure. Aquaman is without question the most overdue figure in this series of all. He appeared in the Justice League series before it gained its "Unlimited" subtitle, there was a 10" Aquaman figure before there was a 5" one, and technically, the classic, traditional line-up of the Justice League would have Aquaman in the place that Hawkgirl took over in the animation, as one of the "core seven" of heavy-hitters (although granted, given that Green Lantern began a romantic relationship with Hawkgirl, that's most emphatically NOT a role I would have wanted Aquaman to assume!)

Aquaman is, essentially, the king of Atlantis, and regards himself as monarch over all the world's oceans. He can be a little pompous about it at times, too, and doesn't have a whole lot of patience for land-dwellers. But he's still a hero. The image of Aquaman used in the animated series is the second most recent once, compared to the comics, where Aquaman has returned to a modern variant on his classic look, with short hair, orange shirt, and green leggings. The animated Aquaman has long hair, is shirtless, has green leggings, and a hook for a left hand.

The figure is as tall as the (in my opinion) oversized Green Arrow figure, roughly 5" in height. The long hair is a flexible plastic attachment, allowing the head to turn somewhat. He is very broad-chested, which makes him look that much larger, and he has the more extensive articulation of not only head, arms, and legs, but also elbows, knees, and waist. And at least as far as the knees are concerned, he needs it, as he needs to bend his knees just a little bit in order to stand well. Still, a very cool figure, and certainly a distinctly overdue one.

Next up we have RED TORNADO. He's sold in a three-pack with Green Lantern and Flash. Red Tornado is an android, originally built by evil scientist T.O. Morrow. Red Tornado has the ability to spin himself around at such a high rate of speed that he can not only fly, he can produce tornadoes. More recent storylines in the comic book have the character inhabited by a "weather elemental" or some such, whatever the heck that's supposed to be. He was also the mentor of the Young Justice team for a time. To what degree either of these apply to the animated version, I don't know. The character has made a couple of cameo appearances, but has not been strongly features in an episode as yet.

The figure is cool, and well designed, complete with a flexible plastic cape. He has the standard articulation of head, arms, and legs. He does not turn at the waist, which is a little disappointing, given that sometimes, Red Tornado flies by holding his upper half still, generating his tornado only from the waist down.

Finally, I want to say a word about the GREEN LANTERN figure in the same three-pack. It's not quite a repaint of the original. For one thing, it has the more extensive articulation. For another, it has silver around the Green Lantern insignia instead of white. But more to the point, it has Green Lantern's new look.

John Stewart (GL), when the Unlimited series began, did what I've called "pulled a Sisko". For those of you who need that explained, on the TV series "Star Trek Deep Space Nine", when the fourth season started, actor Avery Brooks, who played Captain Benjamin Sisko, commander of the space station, shaved his head and grew a mustache and goatee. It was quite a dramatic difference, and it's been argued that Brooks' performance intensified with his new look.

So when Justice League Unlimited started, Green Lantern had shaved his head and grown a mustache and goatee. I don't think it's racist to point out that both Sisko and Stewart are portrayed as strong-willed African-Americans. Now, Green Lantern is only a cartoon. So I'm not sure who REALLY made the decision to change the character's look in this fashion, or whether they intended for a comparison to be made to Sisko from DS9. But, I am no great believer in coincidence. And I'm not sorry to have the "revised look" Lantern figure, either. I'm thinking of displaying them with my Sisko figures.

Now, I'd like to make a few concluding comments about the line as a whole. I wish I could say they will be generally positive, but they won't be. Don't get me wrong. I greatly enjoy the Justice League Unlimited series on Cartoon Network. But frankly, Mattel's got some serious problems with the toy line that I really hope they'll do something about.

Point #1, and the most obvious. I have plenty of Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, etc. And it's hard for me to justify the cost of a $10.00 three-pack when I only want one of the figures in the set! I'm delighted to see the single-carded editions. A friend of mine told me that there's some oddball toy marketing research out there that indicates that kids only recognize a handful of characters from any given toy concept, and that's what they focus on. That's why you see so many characters repeated over and over again in lines like G.I.Joe, Batman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and, unfortunately, Justice League.

There's this notion that kids can maybe identify with five or six characters, like the Power Rangers. Personally, I think this is horrendously insulting to the mentality of children, who, as ever, are a lot more on the ball when it comes to keeping track of their toys than adults think they are, probably because the executive boors looking at this sort of research wouldn't know Red Tornado from Barbie. They're too busy studying their corporate assets.

But, it's this sort of mentality that gives us Superman and Batman in every other set, while secondary characters like Green Arrow and The Atom turn up far less, and it's anyone's guess how many of the worthy characters in the Justice League Unlimited series will actually be getting developed as action figures, although a likely answer is, sadly, "Nowhere near enough".

Point #2 - Sloppiness. The Atom can barely stand up on his own. Red Tornado's legs are uneven. So are Aquaman's, a bit, although his ability to bend his knees compensates. Doesn't ANYBODY check these sculpts before they go into production to see if they even work? Or, more likely -- nobody cares. And I find that pretty inexcusable. Then there's the molding issue. And this isn't confined to Justice League. I've been encountering it on G.I.Joe and even Street Fighter. Can we please correct whatever's gone wrong in the molding procedures so that these really deep defect lines where the plastic that's pushed into the mold -- and isn't pushed far enough -- can be eliminated? I've seen it now on Dr. Fate, Chun-Li, Schrage, General Hawk, Daina -- it's ridiculous and intolerable. Is there any such thing as "Quality Control" anymore?

Point #3 - and the really nit picky one. Articulation. Make up your minds, will you? Half of my figures have one level of articulation, half have another. Mind you, I'm grateful that my Aquaman has knee articulation, or the way his feet are sculpted, he wouldn't stand up any better than The Atom (see Point #2). But even though it's already too late, a little consistency here would've been appreciated. Just a little something for future reference on whatever line you develop after Justice League -- or if you'd like to bring back Masters of the Universe and do those seven sculpts you showed off at the San Diego ComiCon as proper figures instead of just statues, that'd be fine, too (sorry, I digress, but I couldn't resist).

So, to conclude: Would I recommend these toys? Well, yes, if you don't mind some of the flaws, and don't mind having Batman, Superman, and a few others in numerous quantities. INDIVIDUALLY, they're generally very decent action figures, and certainly many of them are characters that do not get rendered in plastic very often. I can think of maybe two other Red Tornado figures (Super Powers and Hasbro's JLA), and two other Atom figures (Hasbro's JLA and DC Direct's JLA) that have ever existed. And I feel this is a line deserving of support, so that more characters will, I hope, be brought into it.