REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE ALL-STAR CLASSICS SUPERBOY-PRIME
I'll admit, it's getting tough to find DC Universe Classics type figures. The line has, for the moment, run its course at retail, department stores like Target and Walmart seem to be cutting back on their toy departments in general, and the forthcoming "DC Unlimited" line has a heavy emphasis on the "New 52" -- which means you won't be seeing any reviews of those figures on this Web Site, as I refuse to have anything to do with that.
There was supposed to be a couple of assortments of figures called "DC All-Stars". However, even this was truncated from its original plan, reduced to one assortment, half of which was "New 52" based, and then, I never saw it at retail, and ended up having to get the other half online.
I'm not all that fond of mail-ordering action figures, unless there's just no alternative, such as with some of the lines offered through, for example, MattyCollector.Com. You never quite know what you're going to get, and I tend to be very particular about a figure's appearance. However, it seems that increasingly, places like BigBadToyStore and EntertainmentEarth, along with Web Sites run by the companies themselves, have a better (not to mention more interesting) supply of toys than you can find at retail. So I find myself in what I regard to be the somewhat unenviable position of having to send away for these figures, and then say a prayer and cross my fingers that what shows up is in good overall condition.
Thankfully, in the case of the half of the DC All-Stars assortment that I did want, consisting of two characters known as Superboy-Prime and Red Robin, I was most fortunate. Both figures are in excellent condition. This review will take a look at SUPERBOY-PRIME.
Superboy-Prime, (Clark Kent, born Kal-El) also known as Superman-Prime, first appeared in DC Comics Presents #87 (November 1985), and was created by Elliot S. Maggin and Curt Swan (based upon the original Superboy character by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster).
Superboy-Prime is from a parallel Earth called Earth-Prime that had no super-heroes. There, Superman and the other comic superheroes were fictional characters. In the DC Multiverse, Earth-Prime is the true Earth from which all the other worlds within the multiverse originate, and initially believed to be the actual reality where the readers lived, DC Comics operated as a publisher and all superheroes are fictional. However, Earth Prime became an alternate reality in its first appearance in The Flash #179 (May, 1968), when the Flash accidentally travels there from Earth-One. The Flash, stranded, contacts DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz, who helps him construct a cosmic treadmill to return to Earth-One. Eventually it was stated that the writers of DC Comics of Earth Prime unconsciously base their stories on the adventures of the heroes on Earth-One and Earth-Two.
Earth Prime gained its first superhero in the form of a character named Ultraa, who first appeared in Justice League of America #153. Like Superman, Ultraa was the sole survivor of a destroyed alien world, rocketed to Earth-Prime as a baby. After his first encounter with the Justice League, Ultraa decided Earth-Prime was not ready for superheroes and relocated to Earth-One.
The Earth-Prime universe was erased during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and Superboy Prime ended up in a "paradise" dimension. Unable to let go of his former life and his destiny as Earth's greatest hero, his convictions and morals became warped. Earth-Prime's Superboy first refers to himself as "Superboy-Prime" in Infinite Crisis #2, and later used the name "Superman-Prime" when DC Comics was unable to use the name "Superboy" for a time.
Superboy-Prime is the adopted son of Jerry and Naomi Kent. Naomi wanted to name their infant son Clark, after her maiden name, but Jerry, knowing he will also be named like Superman, a fictional comic book character, initially refused, but finally gave in. What the Kents do not know is that the baby, found abandoned in a forest, is actually a young Kal-El, who has been teleported to Earth by his father Jor-El moments before the planet Krypton was destroyed when its red sun went supernova.
Young Clark lives the first fifteen years of his life as a normal boy. However, one night, as he attends a Halloween costume party dressed as Superboy, the passage of Halley's Comet overhead triggers his Kryptonian powers. At the same time, the Earth-One Superman finds his way to Earth Prime and the two Supermen meet. Superboy-Prime uses his powers to stop a tidal wave.
Superboy-Prime is drawn into the Crisis on Infinite Earths after his universe is consumed in the light of the Anti-Monitor. Although the loss of everything he knows causes him anguish, he finds peace in knowing that he fights the good fight alongside other heroes. During the final battle against the Anti-Monitor, Kal-L, the Earth-Two Superman, orders him to escape with Alexander Luthor, Jr. and the other heroes. Fearing that Kal-L will die in battle and knowing the new Earth is not his true home, Superboy-Prime joins Kal-el in the fight against the Anti-Monitor.
After the destruction of the Anti-Monitor by Kal-L, Superboy-Prime joins Alexander Luthor, Jr. of Earth-Three, Kal-L, and his wife Lois Lane in a "paradise dimension".
In the "paradise dimension", Superboy-Prime secludes himself from the others, using crystals to replay events from his life on Earth Prime. Superboy-Prime becomes frustrated and angry, and he tries to reach out to Kal-L, whose attention is focused on Lois' failing health. Alexander comes to believe that the reason behind Lois' failing health is the paradise dimension itself, and persuades Superboy-Prime to help him return to reality by showing Superboy-Prime the negative aspects of the post-Crisis Earth. Superboy-Prime hesitates until he overhears Kal-L say: "I wish this world would let him grow up. He'll never be Superman here". Finally, Alexander shows him the deaths of his parents and girlfriend in a car accident on the post-Crisis Earth.
Furious, Superboy-Prime pounded on the barrier of reality. This assault caused ripples that altered reality, which was used as an explanation for character changes and retcons in DC continuity, such as Jason Todd's return, Superman's multiple origins, the Doom Patrol's rebooting as new characters, Donna Troy's multiple origins after the first Crisis, various incarnations of Hawkman, and the different incarnations of the Legion of Super-Heroes since the first Crisis.
Eventually, Alexander reveals to Superboy-Prime that his powers are returning, and the two combine forces to break through the barrier wall. Together, they set into motion the events that culminate in Infinite Crisis.
During Infinite Crisis, Superman of Earth-Two breaks open a portal to the DC Universe, and the four residents of the paradise dimension return, making themselves known to Power Girl and Batman. When introduced to Power Girl, he calls himself Superboy-Prime for the first time. Kal-L tells Power Girl: "When the universe was reborn, Earth-One became the primary world. The scraps of the remaining worlds were folded into it. But I finally realized — we saved the wrong Earth".
Superboy-Prime is jealous of Conner Kent, the modern Superboy, believing him to be living the life he himself ought to have had while not fighting for it. He also believes the Earth's heroes act more like villains. Superboy-Prime confronts Superboy, telling him that he (Superboy-Prime) is the only Superboy the Earth needs. Superboy-Prime brutally attacks Conner, but not before Connor activates his Titans homing signal. The Teen Titans, the Doom Patrol, and the Justice Society of America arrive to help Conner. After accidentally killing Pantha with a decapitating punch, Superboy-Prime is shocked and horrified. The heroes try to contain Superboy-Prime, who kills or wounds several of them.
Left with no other option, Jay Garrick, Wally West, and Bart Allen drive Superboy-Prime into the Speed Force, banish him to a parallel world and imprisoned him in a facility bathed in artificial red sunlight, where he remains for four years.
Hours later, an older Bart Allen, dressed in his grandfather's costume, emerges from the Speed Force and tells the heroine Doctor Light to warn the other heroes that Superboy-Prime has escaped. Superboy-Prime reappears during a battle between Alexander Luthor and the heroes freed from his tower, wearing a power suit modeled after the Anti-Monitor's armor, which constantly feeds him yellow solar energy and boosts his power levels. During the battle, Black Adam discovers that his magic has little effect against Superboy-Prime. Superboy-Prime knocks Adam away from the tower, and his opponent is transported to Earth-S. Superboy-Prime insists that Luthor reinstate Earth Prime as the only existing Earth. After Superboy-Prime attempts to kill Wonder Girl, an enraged Conner Kent attacks him. Conner and Superboy-Prime's battle sends them both headlong into Alexander Luthor's vibrational tuning fork. The machine explodes, and the alternate Earths merge into one.
Later, Superboy-Prime flies toward Oa intending to destroy it and spark another Big Bang which would recreate the universe with himself as the sole hero. Although the majority of the Earth's heroes are in pursuit, Superboy-Prime eludes capture.
Superboy-Prime is slowed down by a 300-mile thick wall of pure willpower generated by the Green Lantern Corps. Breaking through, he battles and slaughters thirty-two Green Lanterns. The two Supermen arrive and fly Superboy-Prime through Rao, the red sun of Krypton. The heat melts away Superboy-Prime's armor, and severely weakens all three Kryptonians, who then crash on the Green Lantern planet Mogo. Superboy-Prime savagely beats Kal-L, but is then attacked by Kal-El. Although nearly powerless, Kal-El knocks Superboy-Prime out before collapsing himself, but members of the Green Lantern Corps manage to save Kal-El.
Superboy-Prime is then taken into the custody of the Guardians of the Universe, who place him in a quantum containment field, surrounded by a red Sun-Eater and guarded by fifty Green Lanterns. While inside his cell, he carves the Superman symbol into his chest.
A year later, Superboy-Prime sits in his cell and is watched over by a special cadre of Green Lanterns, including Guy Gardner, when the Guardians of the Universe discuss whether they should question him.
When the Sinestro Corps attack Oa, Superboy-Prime is released from his imprisonment and joins them. He becomes one of the Anti-Monitor's heralds, and wears the uniform of the Sinestro Corps along with a variant of the power suit he wore during Infinite Crisis. Calling himself Superman-Prime, he arrives on Earth and battles a large group of heroes while flashing back on his life so far. He reveals that he did not believe Sinestro when he said that the Multiverse has been restored, and has only gone along with the Anti-Monitor's plans so that he may one day get revenge on him for the destruction of Earth Prime. Ultimately, a Guardian willingly sacrifices himself to destroy Superman-Prime. However, instead of dying, Prime is infused with Oan energy and warped back into the multiverse.
In Countdown to Final Crisis, following the conclusion of the Sinestro Corps War, Superman-Prime is shown wearing a costume similar to the black suit worn by Superman shortly after his resurrection and has discovered the existence of the new Multiverse, traversing it in the hopes of finding Earth Prime. He arrives on Earth-15 and attacks that world's Lex Luthor, blaming him for Alexander Luthor's failure to make the universe "perfect". He promptly kills that world's heroes and destroys the planet.
Later, after the events of Geoff Johns' Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes storyline, the Time Trapper finds Superboy-Prime lost in time. He decides to use him to destroy the Legion and sends him to the 31st century, where he crashes in a farm outside of Smallville.
He makes his way into Smallville, and visits the Superman Museum, where he discovers that he is regarded as merely a footnote in Superman's history, and ultimately has no impact on history. This sends him into a tantrum, in which he wrecks the museum and kills security guards and police officers. In the middle of his tantrum, the museum tour guide (a holographic recreation of Jimmy Olsen) tells Prime of the Legion of Super-Villains.
He learns that the evil Legion followed a code of evil, inspired by a dark being whose "name was never spoken". Prime, resolved to be a villain with more of an impact than any other enemy of Superman, sets out for the prison planet of Takron-Galtos, and frees Lightning Lord, Saturn Queen, and Cosmic King. Unlike most denizens of the 31st century, they all recognize Prime and seem overjoyed to see him. The dialogue seems to imply that Prime was the dark being whose example the villains follow.
During the war between the Legions of Super Heroes and the Legion of Super-Villains, Brainiac 5 puts into action a contingency plan that resurrects Connor Kent and Bart Allen. Ultimately realizing that Time Trapper's past is directly connected to Superboy-Prime's future, Saturn Girl uses the Time Trapper's time portals to recruit every Legion across the multiverse, who fight and defeat the Time Trapper. Superman and the 3 Legion founders transport him to the 31st Century, where the Trapper faces his younger self. Superboy-Prime and Trapper start bickering which culminates with their mutual destruction after Prime attacks Time Trapper, creating a paradox.
The paradox created by Prime attacking himself returns him to Earth Prime. To his dismay, his girlfriend and family have read Infinite Crisis, Sinestro Corps War, Countdown to Final Crisis, and Legion of 3 Worlds, and are now terrified of him. Prime lives in his parents' basement, who support him out of fear for what he might do to them. He spends his days collecting comic books and trolling the DC Comics message boards, remarking that the DCU will never be rid of him and that he "always survives."
Superboy-Prime continues to live his secluded life, unknowingly but constantly monitored by the prime universe Brainiac 5, still compulsively reading every comic book and message board post pertaining to the DC Multiverse. The extended cool off period forced on him has left Clark more regretful, aware of his reputation as a joke character in the fellow public of Earth Prime. Upon reading Adventure Comics #4, and the online solicitations for the two-parts storyline possibly dealing with his death, he embarks with his fearful parents on a wild goose chase, hoping to find a comic book store willing to sell him a copy of the fifth issue. However, since the fifth issue is not yet on the shelves, the events unfold exactly as Clark already read them.
Following an encounter with a Black Lantern ring, he becomes overcome by the emotions forced by the ring and devastated that "they" have turned him into a monster and made it so he cannot ever have a "happy ending." Laurie enters the basement, sporting a broken arm. She comforts Prime, telling him that "they" heard him, and that they sent her to tell him that they are sorry for what they did to him, and are going to leave him alone—"they" previously mentioned as being the writers at DC Comics. As they embrace, a Black Lantern ring is shown on Laurie's hand that detects the hope within Prime's heart.
The happy ending does not last. Later, during a battle with the Teen Titans, a young villain named Headcase opens up a wormhole that accidentally transports Superboy-Prime back to New Earth. Enraged by his separation from Laurie, Superboy-Prime vows to destroy the Titans and find a way to return home. He subsequently assembles a cadre of supervillains, each of whom have a personal grudge against the Titans. Superboy-Prime also brings three clones of Superboy, and he uses them to assist in the attack on the Titans. Superboy-Prime and his team attempt to destroy Titans Tower, but are met by a large group of former Titans. After Superboy-Prime is defeated by the combined might of the surviving Titans, Superboy and Supergirl imprison him within the Source Wall, which to date is the last appearance of the character
Superboy-Prime has all the basic abilities of a Kryptonian except at a much higher level, exposed to yellow sunlight: superhuman strength, speed, senses, agility, healing, endurance, superbreath, flight, x-ray vision, heat vision, and invulnerability. His power is close to that of the Silver Age "Earth-One" Superman's, which makes him one of the most powerful characters in the universe. His fight with the Guardians and Monarch showed that his Kryptonian-Prime physiology is capable of absorbing and processing large quantities of Oan energy and Quantum energy in addition to yellow sun energy. It is unknown what other energies Superboy-Prime can absorb and metabolize for his powers.
While imprisoned by the Flashes on an alternate Earth, Superboy-Prime built a power suit based on the one worn by the Anti-Monitor. The suit collects and feeds him yellow solar energy to maintain his power levels even when exposed to a red sun.
Superboy-Prime is very frustrated with what his life has turned into. He has been wanting to show the world what he can do, because he barely had a chance to be Superboy. Superboy-Prime is a teenager raised in isolation, and never learned how to keep his powers or emotions in check, so when confronted, the situation escalated and he had no idea on how to defuse it. His psychotic temper and inhuman tantrums coupled with his almost insurmountable power makes Superboy-Prime one of the greatest threats Superman has faced. Even worse, he shows no remorse for those he has hurt stating quite immaturely, "They made me do it". He believes that since all the people he killed were fictional beings it does not matter, though reality hits hard when he returns to his own Earth.
So, basically, he's an ill-tempered, self-centered little nutjob with super-powers. Except for that last part -- well, it's a good thing I avoid political jokes around here, or I could make some interesting comparisons.
So, how's the figure? Really, a lot more impressive than I expected. Now, Superboy-Prime has never been one of my favorite characters. He's got such a spoiled-brat attitude that you wish you were on Earth-Prime and could get access to a Cosmic Treadmill or something just so you could step into the story yourself with a huge paddle made out of Kryptonite and blister his butt -- it's about what he deserves. Nevertheless, his attitude combined with his super-powers makes him a serious threat, and he's been either the focal point or a major player in a number of significant storylines, including Infinite Crisis, the Sinestro Corps War, Legion of 3 Worlds, and the conclusion of one of the lengthier runs of Teen Titans. So yeah, he's been around enough, significantly enough, to merit an action figure. And I'll still take him over any of the "New 52" crew...
The figure's size is interesting. There have been figures of both Superman and Superboy in the DC Universe Classics series. The Superman figures have been numerous. The two established figures of Superboy include one of one of the earlier incarnations of Conner Kent, and one of Clark Kent as Superboy during his tenure with the Legion of Super-Heroes, that figure being included with that spectacular twelve-pack.
The Superboy figures used a distinctive set of body molds that could be described as "mid-to-late-teen male hero". Shorter than the adult body molds, but still with a generous amount of muscle definition.
Most of the Superman figures have, of course, used the adult male body molds, but there's a more powerful-looking upper torso available, that's been used for certain crucial characters that warrant a somewhat larger build. This has included the likes of Batman, Martian Manhunter, and of course, Superman. Makes him look more heroic to be even bigger than the "average" super-hero.
Superboy-Prime uses the adult body molds, so he's taller than either of the other Superboy figures, but he doesn't have Superman's larger torso, so he still ends up looking smaller, and more youthful, than Superman. Given Superboy-Prime's temporary growth spurt into Superman-Prime, I think we could fairly call this figure a sort of "median range" between the two.
The headsculpt is interesting. It's entirely unique to the figure, and molded in flesh-tone plastic. That's a little unusual, as a large percentage of DC Classics-type figures have their skin tone painted on. What I found a little surprising, especially considering some of the more extreme facial expressions that a few other DC Universe Classics figures have been given, is that Superboy-Prime's facial expression is relatively neutral. I expected a furrowed brow and clenched teeth, but that's not the case at all. I'm not saying it's a bad look, but it's a little unusual in light of the character, in my opinion.
The hair is nicely done, and has the traditional curl up front. You could almost pop this head off and attach it to the Legion Superboy figure. Almost...
There's something about the eyes and eyebrows. Although the eyes haven't been painted solid red -- which is a frequent "look" for Superboy-Prime -- they don't look quite heroic. Maybe it's the unusually pale blue. Maybe it's the arched eyebrows. And maybe I'm reading too much into it, but even though this figure's expression seems more or less neutral, there's something there that would indicate a personality that's on a pretty short fuse, and you really don't want to set him off.
Most of the uniform is in the traditional Superman colors. The blue is a slightly lighter blue than has been used on the Superman figures, but it's almost the same blue that was used on Superboy from the Legion set. It may be just fractionally darker. Interestingly, it's pretty much precisely the same blue that was used for Ultraman, the evil Superman-type from the Crime Syndicate of Amerika set.
Superboy-Prime has red trunks, boots, and a cape. The cape has been designed to look somewhat shredded. I don't recall the character especially looking like this on a general basis, but it does lend something to his status as a failed Superboy, and I have to say I'm impressed that Mattel went to the lengths to create a distinctive cape.
Of course, really, the cape is part of the Anti-Monitor-based armor that Superboy-Prime is wearing. Here is what really sets the character apart from other Superman/Superboy figures. The armor, mostly metallic blue in color, includes a piece that fits around his neck like a collar and extends over his shoulders, plus bulky armor sections over his lower arms and lower legs. This required Mattel to create distinctive body pieces for this figure, and again, I'm impressed that they did so.
Superboy also has a gold belt, with cables that stretch from the belt to the lower legs, as well as cables that stretch from the shoulder piece to the lower arms. The attachment points are on the lower arms and legs, of course, and the cable sections are glued into the sockets. Still, this must have made figure assembly at the factory a little more challenging than usual. Credit to those that worked on this figure, he's very well assembled.
Of course, it wouldn't be any sort of Superboy or Superman without the famous "S" shield, and it is present and accounted for as part of the armor, still on the center of the chest, but as a sculpted piece, not imprinted onto the shirt, and instead of red with a yellow interior, it's red with a black interior.
Paintwork on the figure is extremely impressive, and fairly extensive. The facial details are superbly well done, as is the hair. The gold cables of the armor are done with great care and precision, especially on the shoulder piece, the the lower arms and legs have a cool metallic blue finish. The details on the "S" symbol have also been handled well.
Of course, Superboy-Prime is superbly articulated. He is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivels, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. The armor cables are no hindrance to articulation. I continue to maintain that these DC Universe Classics type figures are the most impressive superhero figures around.
So, what's my final word? As concerned as I am for the future of these figures, and as thoroughly annoyed (to put it mildly) as I am with the current direction of DC Comics, this particular figure is not part of that fiasco, and even though I had to mail order him, I am delighted that he was produced and released.
The character of Superboy-Prime has been somewhat controversial. Some people like him, some hate him. Granted, he's no Lex Luthor or Brainiac. He's all power and no real thought except for revenge against a universe and its citizens that he holds responsible for all his woes. He's a dangerously powerful, dangerously psychotic, spoiled brat.
But he has been part of some very interesting stories, and certainly this figure of him is very nicely done. I believe any DC Comics fan will enjoy adding him to their collection.
The DC UNIVERSE ALL-STARS figure of SUPERBOY-PRIME definitely has my highest recommendation!