REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE GREEN LANTERN CLASSICS "COLLECT-AND-CONNECT" STEL
The Green Lantern Corps is comprised of 7200 representatives from across the universe, who have shown a dedicated ability to overcome fear and use their strength and willpower in the defense of peace and justice against a wide range of evils. While a certain percentage of these beings are humanoid, all manner of types of life have been represented within the Green Lantern Corps -- which must make the trainee dormitories on Oa rather interesting structures at times, if nothing else.
This astounding variety of life also includes sentient robots. Now, you'd think that the Guardians of the Universe would be just a little reluctant to bring robots into the Green Lantern Corps, after their earlier debacle with their own Manhunter Robots, which were the precursors to the Green Lantern Corps. But apparently the Guardians feel there's a sufficient difference between their own homegrown mechanoids and robotic life that has managed to develop however it has elsewhere in the universe.
This brings us to STEL, the most prominent robotic member of the Green Lantern Corps, and the "Collect-and-Connect" figure of the second wave of Mattel's DC Universe Green Lantern Classics line, which also included Sodam Yat, Star Sapphire, a three-pack featuring Dex-Starr, B'dg, and Despotellis, the Red Lanterns Skallox and Nite-Lik (one figure with switchable parts), the Green Lanterns Naut Kei Loi and Medphyll (same arrangement), and a movie preview Green Lantern named G'hu. Quite the population increase to Green Lantern's corner of the DC Universe, really.
Stel first appeared in Green Lantern #11, in March 1962, and was created by John Broome and Gil Kane. He is a native to the planet Grenda, and represents Space Sector 3009.
Stel was trained by Sinestro, before Sinestro betrayed the Green Lantern Corps. Although not the most prominent character in the Green Lantern Corps, he turned up here and there, serving the Corps through many of its battles, including a breakout from the Prison Planet of the Guardians of the Universe, an invasion by the Qwardians, and an attack by the alliance of Nekron and Krona. It is during this confrontation that Krona seemingly kills Stel, tearing him to pieces. He is subsequently found by his fellow Lanterns. Stel gives the Lanterns a vital clue, and is later taken back to Grenda to be given a hero's burial.
During Stel's funeral, the Krydos, enemy of the Grendans, attack. Stel's successor arrives to help deal with the Krydos, but is himself attacked by a Grendan named Yron. Yron believes that Stel has failed as a Green Lantern due to the repeated Krydos attacks that Grenda suffers. Forcing the Green Lantern to take him to Oa, Yron protests to the Guardians that he would be a suitable choice to defend his planet and sector. The Guardians agree and give Yron his own power ring.
Yron's efforts to defend the planet and then attack the Krydos prove to be disastrous, and his tactics end up killing many Grendans. Dying from an attack, Yron realizes that Stel was the better Lantern, and with one last push of willpower, brings Stel back to life. Stel routs the Krydos threat and is hailed as a hero, while Yron is vilified. The resurrected Stel, however, pronounces Yron a hero, and wants to hear more of his actions.
Stel served with the Corps during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, through Hal Jordan's descent into madness due to Parallax, and the loss of the power rings. With the Green Lantern Corps reinstated after the surviving Lanterns defeat Parallax on Earth, Stel joins again and is partnered with the Green Man, a representative from a race that has no individual names.
Stel then helps a group of overwhelmed Lanterns, which included Soranik Natu, Kyle Rayner, Kilowog, Guy Gardner, and rookies Isamot Kol and Vath Sarn. The entire group, many with low power levels, then face the Spider Guild.
Stel was thought annihilated by an anti-matter explosion caused by a mind-controlled Green Man. Incredibly, Stel survived the blast, although his robotic body was severely damaged. Green Man finds Stel, and the two head to the planet-sized Green Lantern Mogo to repair and heal. Stel uses his ring's energy to compensate for his missing parts.
On arrival at Mogo, the two find themselves - as well as Mogo - under attack by the Sinestro Corps. Despite having no realistic chance of surviving, the group battles the Sinestro Corps long enough for reinforcements to arrive and turn the tide of the conflict.
Stel is later seen trying to divert space debris to continue repairing himself. An unavoidable recall to Oa puts this effort on hold. Stel and other Lanterns are then sent deep into the forbidden Okarran system in order to root out Sinestro Corps members. Stel pursues a Sinestro Corps member into the Vega system, where both are attached by an Orange Lantern. Stel is badly wounded and sent back to Oa with and Orange Lantern's symbol burned into his chest - a message to the Guardians from Larfleeze.
Finally, Stel is able to fully repair himself, and following the events of Blackest Night, Kilowog chose Stel as his replacement as the drill instructor for all Green Lantern recruits, while Kilowog chose to go back to being a Lantern in the field.
So -- how's the figure? Well, let me say this. I like robots, and I like robot toys. I have quite a few Transformers here, a generous supply of Gundams, and a fairly large number of Cobra Battle Android Troopers from G.I. Joe. I even have those drones from the last Iron Man movie.
All of that being said, and no disrespect whatsoever intended towards Optimus Prime, Megatron, Unicron, Gundam Wing, Hyaku-Shiki, or even my Astro Boy figure, but -- I think I may have a new favorite robot, because this Stel figure is a seriously impressive piece of work.
Fortunately, when Stel was repaired following the various incidents related above in his backstory, he was also given a substantial upgrade and modernization in his appearance. Because brother, he needed it. All due respect to Broome and Kane and the time period in which they created Stel, but his initial appearance, which followed through for a lot of years, looked more like something out of the Jetsons. Nothing wrong with that show, but let's face it, the robots had fairly simplistic designs, and Stel was a far cry from the more modern designs of what people expect from today's robots -- even fictional ones.
Stel seems to have a little trouble maintaining a consistent appearance, though. He's in the live-action Green Lantern movie, but the action figure of his movie likeness doesn't much resemble how he appears in the movie. That's because the early design of Stel for the movie -- which modified a lot of the characters, admittedly -- gave him a more insectoid appearance than he ultimately wound up having, but the figure is based on the earlier designs.
Fortunately, the Collect-and-Connect Stel is based on his present, modern incarnation in the comics. And thanks to everything from assorted anime and manga, up to and including things like the live-action Transformers movies, which Stel manages to resemble just a bit, even though he doesn't transform, the fan community is a lot more used to complex designs for robots.
If the sculpting and design team of the Four Horsement, that work on Mattel's DC Universe Classics line, as well as Masters of the Universe and other projects, wanted to give themselves a considerable design challenge, they certainly did so with Stel. And -- no great surprise, they succeeded admirably.
An interesting note about Stel's assembly. The connection pegs for his arms and legs actually vary slightly in size. One peg on one of the arms is slightly narrower than the other. The same is true for the legs. This makes it essentially impossible to misassemble Stel. I really can't imagine anyone doing so, but in fairness, he is an extremely detailed and fairly complicated robot. I can maybe see someone not being sure which side is which with regard to his lower torso, perhaps.
Stel, fully assembled, is huge. Fully assembled, he's very nearly 9-3/4" in height. This makes him taller than just about anybody. By comparison, the otherwise normally proportioned Atom Smasher is 9" even. Darkseid, a somewhat bulkier fellow, is 8-1/2". Kilowog, certainly a wide and massive individual, is barely 9" in height. Another recent addition. Bane, is just slightly over 8". In fact, the only DC Classics Collect-and-Connect figure who's taller than Stel, is Giganta.
I am rather firmly of the opinion that Stel's modern appearance is inspired in part by the live-action Transformers. He's that complex in appearance. While I tend to believe that some of the Transformers were not that well served by such complex and alien designs (although I also acknowledge they couldn't've looked entirely like their 80's counterparts and gotten away with it in a live-action movie), Stel is a different matter. He doesn't have the same level of recognition as the Transformers, and his initial appearance was certainly outmoded, so he could go through this extensive upgrade and come out ahead.
Stel is humanoid in appearance, but he is also easily the single most complex design I've seen yet in the DC Universe Classics line. Incredibly intricate sculpted detail and multiple layers of armored plating are the order of the day on this character. The painted detail is as extensive and precise as the sculpting, even though only four colors - black, metallic green, bright green, and silver -- are used. Seldom has such a limited color palette been used to such remarkable effect.
Stel's head looks like a helmet. It is curved on the top, and then flares out a bit at the base. It is mostly metallic green. It has a slightly raised ridge on the top, and another ridge comprising the brow, which wraps around the entirety of the head. There is an opening in this surface plating on either side, near where the ears would be, revealing an assortment of cables and circuitry that is mostly black, with a few silver highlights.
The front of Stel's head -- his face, essentially -- features a narrow black visor across the front, slightly angled in half. The lower face features a series of black ridges, with part of the metallic green helmet coming up to comprise a sort of jaw. There is a silver piece below the visor and above the jaw, with three black dots in it, that more or less looks like teeth. One assumes the three little holes would be what Stel speaks through.
It's not at all a human face, but it's something of a face. The head is perched atop a neck that is mostly black, with some silver details, and appears to be comprised of a series of cables and pistons. A small metallic green detail can be seen at the base of the neck.
Stel's chest and shoulders are mostly metallic green. The robot has immense metallic green shoulders, not unlike the sort of protective padding that a football player would wear. There is also a metallic green "collar" around the base of the neck, that is technically attached to the back armor, but from the front, almost looks to be free-floating. The shoulder pieces are designed to look as though they are raised above the rest of the torso armor.
In the center of Stel's chest is a raised circular region, with a bright green center, and a black Green Lantern emblem in the center of it. It is reminiscent of Iron Man's chest piece. There is also a bright green circular area on Stel's back, but it is not as extensive as the one on his front, nor does it have the Green Lantern emblem.
The torso is easily the most complicated piece of the Stel figure, from a "pre-assembly" standpoint, as the metallic green armor had to be assembled over the mostly black core body. I'm certain that this must have been quite the challenge from start to finish, from the initial sculpting to the factory. Stel's body underneath the metallic green surface armor seems to be fairly well armored in and of itself, with some exposed silver area, once again looking like pistons, as well as some circular areas that are painted bright green. If these things are spotlights, this guy could come in handy during a power outage.
Stel's abdomen is metallic green, and he has some raised armor plating over what, on a human, anyway, would be a very sensitive area of the anatomy around the lower torso. Precisely what this corresponds to on Stel's robotic form I wouldn't care to guess, and don't think I really need to know.
Stel's arms are largely black, with metallic green armor at the equivalent point of the bicep, and on the back of the arm. He has a couple of small bright green circular areas here, as well. The lower arms are mostly a bright silver, and heavily ridged, with smooth armor plating on the back of the arms and hands. His hands, very human in basic appearance (in a robotic way) are clenched into fists, and he has a Green Lantern power ring on the second finger of his right hand.
Stel's hips have metallic green armor, very flared out, attached to them. His legs are mostly black, with a series of silver pistons visible around them. He has what appear to be ridged knee pads, and his boots, which are quite large relative to the rest of the figure, giving him an even greater anime/manga appearance, are metallic green, with flares at the top similar to his hip armor. The undersides of his feet are heavily treaded with a series of deep ridges.
Stel's basic coloration is a robotic, and admittedly more complex, equivalent to the basic Green Lantern uniform worn by a large percentage of the humanoid members of the Corps. That costume tends to feature a green torso, black arms and legs, green boots, and white gloves. Some individuals, such as Kyle Rayner, John Stewart, and Guy Gardner, have certainly developed their own distinctive looks over the years, but this is the "basic" Green Lantern uniform, and to a strong degree, Stel follows it -- in his own way. The silver lower arms and hands are a definite nod to the white gloves, and the largely black arms and legs, with green dominating the rest of the body, also reflects this design.
The paint work on this figure is astounding. I'll admit, I'm a sucker for an impressive metallic finish, and the metallic green used on Stel is absolutely perfect, and has been painted on superbly well.
Then there's all the tiny little details. The paint guides and stencils for this figure must have induced eyestrain during production. For starters, you've got all those little circular light green whatever-they-are. There's three each in a row on each lower arm as it is, plus another on the back of each arm. They're all over the place -- on the arms, the torso, the legs, the boots -- everywhere!
But more than that are the little silver rivets. Dozens of them, all over the figure. Tiny little raised areas not even 1/16" across. And they're all painted. The result is incredibly impressive, and Stel's overall paint job is exceptionally neatly done, but there's probably some people at the production facility who don't ever want to see another robot again.
Articulation is, of course, excellent. Stel is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. Blessedly, there was no attempt to try to inflict any sort of double-jointed articulation on him. The funny thing is they probably could've almost gotten away with it on the knees, but didn't. I'm pleased that they chose not to. None of the figures in this line need that sort of thing, and it doesn't work very well anyway, and looks like heck. I'm glad Stel doesn't have it.
Any complaints? Well, his left foot is a bit loose. Not grievously so, and there's not really anything to be done about it, and it was obviously something that there was no way to determine in the package. The way Mattel packs these parts, tucking them behind the front placard in the package bubble, a person is lucky if they can even see the part at all, let alone determine its condition.
But I really find it impossible to complain about this figure. Stel may not be all that major a player in the Green Lantern universe, although he's gotten more time in recent years than he's ever had, but this is truly a magnificent figure of him. It's a magnificent action figure, period. The amount of and attention to detail is staggering. I've got some well-detailed figures here. Various Transformers. Halo Spartans. Stel's readily on a par with them.
Stel is the sort of action figure that really showcases what can be done when you have top talent like the Four Horsemen available, and you really pay attention to what they can turn out, and then make sure that your production facility follows suit. If the entire action figure making world could turn out this sort of visual and structural quality on a consistent basis, I'd be one happy camper.
So, what's my final word? Well, I should think that's obvious. This is one incredible robot. Granted, he's not that easy to get, since he's the Collect-and-Connect of the second wave of Green Lantern Classics, but honestly, there's no losers in that assortment. You get Sodam Yat, who has certainly figured heavily in the Corps; Star Sapphire, who's rather overdue in my opinion and is the first female figure in the DC Universe Classics line for a while; the first official Red Lantern figures for this line, some interesting additions to the Green Lanterns, the unusual gathering of Dex-Starr, B'dg, and Despotellis, and the very unusual addition of the movie-inspired Green Lantern known as G'hu. If you're any sort of Green Lantern fan, that's a pretty impressive lineup. So yeah, they're all good, and they're certainly worth it for Stel! If you like Green Lanterns, and you like fancy robots, you will not be disappointed.
The DC UNIVERSE GREEN LANTERN CLASSICS "Collect and Connect" figure of STEL most definitely has my highest recommendation!