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By Thomas Wheeler

I think it can be said without question that the action figure world isn't what it used to be. I'm old enough to remember the 70's, for starters. G.I. Joe had switched to an Adventure Team format, and still had a dominant place in the aisles. That dominance would be put to the test by Mattel's Big Jim product line, and even moreso by the products of a company called Mego, which would ultimately have the license to just about everything, to be turned out in a wide range of 8", cloth-costumed figures.

The 1980's were, of course, dominated by G.I. Joe, Transformers, Masters of the Universe, and to a lesser degree lines such as MASK, Thundercats, and a few others. Star Wars had pretty well run its course by the middle of the decade, and super-heroes didn't seem to have much presence beyond the Super Powers line.

And I look around today and wonder what happened. Long gone are the days when two lines like G.I. Joe and Transformers could dominate an entire aisle at Toys "R" Us. I walk into Walmart and it can be pretty discouraging. No single line can claim much more than a meager smattering of merchandise, and the variety just isn't there. WWE, Star Wars, Transformers, Ninja Turtles, a few G.I. Joes, a handful of Power Rangers, and whichever super-hero has a movie coming out in the near future.

We've gone from feast to near-famine, and a collector really has to scrounge to find much of anything worthwhile anymore. The surprising thing is, every once in a great while, that scrounging can turn up something pretty cool.

One type of place to scrounge would be the clearance outlets. I'm talking about places like Ross, TJMaxx, and Marshall's. Ever since K*B Toys closed its doors, these stores have, on occasion, had rather interesting toy sections. While most of the merchandise is clearance product that didn't sell when it was in the more mainline stores like Walmart or Target, one in a while something turns up that didn't even get released to the mainline stores. I've had this happen on several occasions with Power Rangers, G.I. Joe, and a few other lines. And now, it's happened with Mattel's YOUNG JUSTICE: INVASION line.

For all that Young Justice was a truly excellent series on the Cartoon Network, the toys, offered in both the 4" and 6" scale, the latter being derived substantially from Mattel's DC Universe Classics designs, just didn't fare all that well. As such, several products never made it out. Among these were 6" figures of Kid Flash and Batman.

A while back, I was able to get a loose Kid Flash figure through eBay. More recently, at one of these aforementioned clearance stores, I was truly stunned to discover the 6" Young Justice: Invasion figure of BATMAN, fully boxed with all of his accessories. They also had a Kid Flash, for that matter. But it was Batman that I brought home, and I'm very pleased I did.

Let's have a look at the Young Justice series, and a brief look at Batman (talk about a character I really don't need to explain much), and then have a closer look at this figure.

Young Justice (dubbed Young Justice: Invasion for the second season) is an Emmy Award winning animated television series created by Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti for Cartoon Network.

Despite its title, it is not a direct adaptation of the Young Justice comic series, but rather an adaptation of the entire DC Universe with a focus on young superheroes.

The series follows the lives of teenaged heroes and sidekicks who are members of a fictional covert operation group called The Team. The Team is essentially a young counterpart to the famous adult team, the Justice League. The main setting is the fictional universe of Earth-16, during a time period in which superheroes are a relatively recent phenomenon. The series debuted with an hour long special on November 26, 2010 with the airing of the first two episodes, 'Independence Day' and 'Fireworks'.

Young Justice premiered on September 9, 2011 on Teletoon, in Canada. The series ended alongside fellow DC Nation show Green Lantern: The Animated Series after its second season came to a conclusion during spring 2013. And I still miss both of them.

The show corresponds to the present time of our world, a time period Vietti has called "a new age of heroes".

The pilot episode, later re-broadcast as the opening two episodes of season 1. aired a month prior to the debut of the regular series and introduced four characters: Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, and Speedy. It established their desire for greater recognition and respect, namely, a promotion from sidekicks to full-fledged superheroes. Met with opposition from their respective mentors in the Justice League, Batman, Aquaman, Flash, and Green Arrow, the protégés react in different ways. Speedy resigns from being Green Arrow's partner and begins calling himself Red Arrow. The others seek to persuade their mentors of their worth by secretly taking on a Justice League mission to investigate the Cadmus building.

During their infiltration of Cadmus' headquarters, the three heroes find a clone of Superman named Superboy. After the discovery, the team finds out Cadmus is creating living weapons called Genomorphs. The episode deals with this revelation, the origin of Superboy, and how this relates to a mysterious group of people called the Light.

In the end, Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, and Superboy negotiate with Batman to organize a covert operations team as a practical contrast to the Justice League, whose celebrity status makes it difficult to maintain secrecy or initiate stealth operations. After consulting with his colleagues, Batman establishes Young Justice in a secret cave located inside a former Justice League headquarters, Mount Justice, a hollowed-out mountain. Here the teens are trained and mentored by the Justice League.

The series began development in March 2009, when Sam Register, Executive Vice President of Creative Affairs of Warner Bros. Animation, wanted a show based on the concept of a cross between Teen Titans and Young Justice series of comics, but was not solely an adaptation of one or the other. The title chosen for the show by Register was Young Justice, as it was appropriately meaningful to the concept the creative team was looking for.

Greg Weisman, whom Register sought immediately after the cancellation of The Spectacular Spider-Man animated television series, and Brandon Vietti, whose work in directing a DC Universe Animated original movie Batman: Under the Red Hood Register particularly noted, were hired to produce. Peter David, who penned a majority of the comic book issues of Young Justice, was approached to write several episodes. Also attached to write were Greg Weisman, Kevin Hopps, Andrew Robinson, Nicole Dubuc, Jon Weisman, and Tom Pugsley.

The result of the collaboration of Weisman and Vietti was a show about young heroes based on a combination of the 1960s Teen Titans run and the 1990s Young Justice run, in addition to the recent Teen Titans and Young Justice comics, and revolved around the theme of secrets and lies. In drawing material from a variety of comic book sources, the creative team sought to differentiate the tone of the show from that of the Teen Titans animated television series, which the team believed resembled the tone of the Young Justice series of comics rather than that of Marv Wolfman and George Pérez's New Teen Titans series it was based on.

The concept of a covert operations team has been compared to Impossible Missions Force, a fictional independent espionage agency in the Mission: Impossible series. Together, Weisman and Vietti came up with ideas, characters, and plot points for at least two seasons. Although there were several characters the producers were not allowed to use in the first season (a list that became shorter along the course of the development), they were usually in charge of the decisions determining which DC Universe character would or would not be used. Geoff Johns, Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment, and Phil Bourassa, lead character designer for the show, also played a role in the conception and development process.

The series ran for two seasons and a total of 46 episodes. As this Batman figure is packaged with the "INVASION" suffix, and as the second season of the series drastically differed from the first, I believe it is appropriate to take a specifically focused look at the second season.

The first season of the series ended when Robin alerts some of the other heroes to the fact that six Justice League members (Batman, Hawkwoman, John Stewart, Martian Manhunter, Superman, and Wonder Woman) whereabouts for 16 hours while under Savage's control cannot be accounted for.

The second season opens when Batman and Robin try to figure out what happened to the six Justice League members in the missing 16 hours, and then shifts to a considerable FIVE YEARS later. The Team has gained new members (including Blue Beetle, Beast Boy, Bumblebee, Lagoon Boy, Wonder Girl, Batgirl, and Mal Duncan) with Tim Drake as the new Robin, the former Robin having become Nightwing while Rocket and Zatanna have joined the Justice League.

After the intergalactic bounty hunter Lobo attacks the United Nations and reveals the Secretary-General Tseng as a Krolotean in disguise, G. Gordon Godfrey is shown on his television program trying to turn the public against the Justice League. On the Watchtower, Adam Strange reports that aliens have stolen Zeta technology from the planet Rann and used it to invade Earth. To make matters worse, Strange also reveals that during the missing 16 hours, the mind-controlled Leaguers attacked Rann's sector of space, making the entire League wanted criminals there. Members of the Team are dispatched to Rann while others are set to deal with the aliens on Earth.

Over the course of the second season, the Team must combat first the invading forces of the Kroloteans, and then later a second alien invasion from a group known as the Reach, while the main members of the Justice League are in space trying to explain and answer for their alleged crimes before the legal council of Rimbor.

In the final episode, the council of Rimbor has finally made its decision and declares the Justice League to be guilty. Superboy and Miss Martian show up with new evidence, but are told that it is too late. Back on Earth, Aqualad and Blue and Green Beetle take on Black Beetle on board the Reach ship. Black Beetle destroys Green's scarab, but Blue destroys Black's. However, he learns that Black Beetle has set an endgame in motion. Back on Rimbor, the council reconvenes and after some persuading, agree to reassess the case, and eventually release the League.

Around the world, twenty Reach devices begin to damage the Earth's magnetic field, causing various types of natural disasters. Every hero is called in to split into teams of two, each duo carrying one of twenty devices provided by Lex Luthor that will shut down the machines. They succeed, but Blue Beetle discovers a twenty-first machine in the Arctic. Flash and Impulse arrive to find that it has already gone into "chrysalis" mode and will soon destroy Earth; the two, directed by Luthor, use their speed to create a vortex that draws off the device's energy but need a further boost in order to succeed. They are soon joined by Kid Flash, but Wally's slower speed makes him a target for stray energy discharges which apparently cause him to disintegrate. The machine is shut down and Flash tells a distraught Artemis that Wally said he loved her before vanishing. The Justice League arrive back on Earth to be greeted by the Team, who inform them of Wally's disappearance.

The world is finally free of the Reach, who are set to face trial for their actions. Blue Beetle watches as the Reach leave, his scarab assuring him he is free of Reach control, leaving him satisfied. G. Gordon Godfrey starts campaigning for Lex Luthor to replace the now-resigned Secretary General Tseng, much to Superman's dismay. Impulse honors Wally's memory by taking on the mantle of Kid Flash, as Wally had asked him to do previously, and Artemis rejoins the team as Tigress, unable to continue fighting as Artemis for the time being, stating that "Artemis was Wally's partner". Virgil joins the Team as Static, and romance blossoms between Robin and Wonder Girl as Superboy and Miss Martian begin to patch up their own relationship. Nightwing, grieving the loss of Kid Flash, takes a break from being a hero and maintains that Aqualad should remain leader for the time being with Batgirl as his assistant. The Team are told that they will work out of the Watchtower, side-by-side with the League.

In one final scene, G. Gordon Godfrey and Desaad look on as Vandal Savage meets with Darkseid on Apokolips. Not a bad ending, but given some of the stuff on Cartoon Network these days, I wish the series had continued, as well as Green Lantern.

As to the character of Batman, he was created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger, and first appeared in Detective Comics #27 in May 1939. Originally referred to as "the Bat-Man" and still referred to at times as "the Batman," the character is additionally known as "the Caped Crusader," "the Dark Knight," and "the World's Greatest Detective," among other titles.

Wherever he has appeared, his origin has remained consistent. Batman's secret identity is Bruce Wayne, an American billionaire playboy, industrialist, and philanthropist. Having witnessed the murder of his parents as a child, he swore revenge on criminals, an oath tempered with the greater ideal of justice. Wayne trains himself both physically and intellectually and dons a bat-themed costume in order to fight crime.

Batman operates in Gotham City, assisted by various supporting characters including his crime-fighting partner, Robin, his butler Alfred Pennyworth, the police commissioner Jim Gordon, and occasionally the heroine Batgirl. He fights an assortment of villains, often referred to as the "rogues gallery," which includes the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, Two-Face, Ra's al Ghul, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman, among others. Unlike most superheroes, he does not possess any superpowers; he makes use of intellect, detective skills, science and technology, wealth, physical prowess, martial arts skills, an indomitable will, fear, and intimidation in his continuous war on crime.

Batman became a very popular character soon after his introduction and gained his own comic book title, Batman, in 1940. As the decades wore on, differing interpretations of the character emerged. The late 1960s Batman television series used a camp aesthetic which continued to be associated with the character for years after the show ended. Various creators worked to return the character to his original roots, with varying results, although the character is generally portrayed much more seriously these days. It's worth mentioning that even the campy 1960's Batman took on the role as the result of his parents' murder.

A cultural icon, Batman has been licensed and adapted into a variety of media, from radio to television and film, and appears on a variety of merchandise sold all over the world such as toys and video games. In May 2011, Batman placed second on IGN's Top 100 Comic Book Heroes of All Time, after Superman. Empire magazine also listed him second in their 50 Greatest Comic Book Characters of All Time.

Although lacking super-powers, Batman has no shortage of skills. He has a genius-level intellect, has trained himself to peak physical and mental conditioning, is a master martial artist, acrobat, detective, escapologist, strategist, tactician, and marksman, makes use of a wide range of high-tech equipment, weapons, armors and gadgets, is a master of stealth, is immune to mind control; is a master of disguise, a trained computer hacker, possesses a photographic memory, and all of the Wayne fortune certainly helps with other resources.

So, how's the figure? Extremely impressive. This is one very, very cool Batman figure.

It would not surprise me to learn that Batman is the single most produced individual character in the history of action figures. There have literally been hundreds of him. The first Batman action figure related product that I personally recall was a costume set for Captain Action, back in the 1960's. That was soon followed by the Mego Batman in the 1970's, and the Super Powers Batman in the 1980's.

Since that time, however, Batman has had no less than seven live-action movies, and I don't know how many animated series. And every one of them and then some have had action figure lines associated with them, and every one of them has had multiple versions of Batman. Anybody else -- Superman, Spider-Man, Iron Man -- has to come in a rather distant second in sheer numbers of variety.

It would, as such, be impossible to declare any one Batman figure superior to all of the others, and I'm certainly not going to try. Nevertheless, this Young Justice Batman figure is extremely cool.

Much of the figure uses body molds from Mattel's DC Universe Classics line, currently known as the Signature Series, as well as being used -- unfortunately -- for the New 51 based "Unlimited" series at the retail level. Whatever use it may be being put to at the moment, Mattel, and more specifically the sculpting and design team known as the Four Horsemen, crafted a truly superb body design that as far as I'm concerned has made the DC Universe Classics line the finest line of super-hero action figures ever produced.

I really have no idea if the Four Horseman crafted the parts to this figure that are distinctly those of the Young Justice Batman. If they did, then they did a good job. If they didn't, then whomever did certainly did a good job maintaining the level of high quality, as well as crafting new parts that melded superbly well with the existing parts.

This Batman figure incorporates a new head, lower arms, upper and mid torso, cape, and utility belt. The musculature on the torso has been given a slight animated look to it, as well as incorporating the sculpted detail of Batman's uniform as it appeared in the series, including a distinctly sculpted Bat-emblem.

The animated style of the show was interesting. It was definitely not out of the legendary Bruce Timm-created universe, as seen not only in several Batman series, but also the Superman and Justice League series. Young Justice took a somewhat more realistic direction, throwing in just a hint of Japanese anime, depending on the character.

Arguably, Batman was one of the most straightforward characters in the show, and this is certainly reflected in the action figure. The figure could almost stand alongside the distinctly realistically-designed DC Universe Classics figures and just about get away with it.

I'm especially impressed with the color scheme. The most prominent DC Universe Classics figures of Batman gave the character a black cowl, cape, gloves, boots, and trunks, but a rather lighter gray to the rest of his uniform, which admittedly the character did sometimes wear.

But if you want a serious "Dark Knight" that maintains the traditional colors, here he is. Batman's cape, cowl, boots, trunks, and gloves are definitely black, but the rest of his costume is a very dark gray, and even has a slight metallic finish to it. It's a cool effect, really, making it look as though Batman is wearing a slightly armored uniform. This, of course, would make sense. Superman is the bullet-proof one, not Batman.

The headsculpt is excellent. Batman has his ultra-serious scowl on his face, with deepset white eyes that very successfully make this Batman figure look pretty much perpetually peeved.

The cape is a wonder. It tapers down from the cowl flawlessly, and actually drapes over the shoulders, something the DC Universe Classics Batman figure capes don't do, at the same time giving Batman rather animated-looking squared-off shoulders, before draping down the back appropriately. The cape is flexible enough so that it doesn't hinder arm articulation, and the overall visual effect is truly outstanding.

The lower arms are new pieces, blending in with the overall body design superbly well. The trim that traditionally juts out from Batman's gloves was somewhat minimized for his Young Justice design, but it's still present and accounted for here.

The utility belt is mostly light brown, with a wide range of small equipment pouches, and a gold buckle. Paint work on the figure as a whole is exceptionally well done.

Of course, the figure is superbly articulated, as one would expect from a figure largely derived from these parts. Batman is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivels, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivels, knees, and ankles.

The 6" scale Young Justice figures were all packaged in large boxes with a ton of accessories, including a diorama-like display base. Batman is no exception. Rather oddly, he was actually displayed in the upper left corner of his box, made to look as though he was leaping on for a landing on some grim-looking brick rooftop somewhere in Gotham City. The rooftop is there, nicely designed and very well detailed with some airbrushed weathering around the bricks. There's even a parapet complete with a creepy-looking little gargoyle on it. It's an impressive display piece, really.

Batman's accessories include two Batarangs, and a little black smoke grenade with green smoke puffing out of it. A surprisingly effective sculpt. More often than not, when I've seen a toy company try to craft some sort of energy-effect super-power in plastic, it doesn't tend to work very well -- lightsabers notwithstanding. This smoke bomb really looks very cool.

So, what's my final word? I still miss watching Young Justice -- and Green Lantern -- on Saturday mornings on Cartoon Network. They are both excellent shows. But I am pleased that, even in a clearance-type store, a couple more Young Justice figures have finally put in an appearance. I already knew that the Kid Flash figure was nicely done, and I am certainly pleased to report that this is a very impressive Batman figure, that I believe any Batman fan would be happy to own. I'm not saying he'll be easy to find. Clearance store merchandise tends to have rather sporadic distribution, and comes and goes with no real pattern, and once it's gone, it's gone.

But this Batman figure does exist, in a fully packaged format, and he's definitely worth tracking down. I'm very glad that I did.

The YOUNG JUSTICE: INVASION 6"-scale edition of BATMAN definitely has my highest recommendation!