One of the cooler exclusives to come out of the 2007 San Diego ComiCon was an exclusive three-pack of JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED figures from Mattel.
I honestly have to believe that this three-pack was not originally intended as a Convention Exclusive. I believe this for several reasons. For starters, it's on an orange-back card. The DC figures, especially the Justice League line, currently has a purple back, and has had for some time (although some orange-carded merchandise can still be found lingering in some places). Secondly, the back of the package card lists a number of other three-packs that were available at retail around the same time, and indeed this three-pack was supposed to have been.
I honestly don't know what happened here. I'm not sure why this particular three-pack never made it into the assortment cases. It may simply be that it was intended as a late "case refresher" and when Mattel made the decision to change the color scheme of the packaging, it didn't quite make it in time, and yet was still produced, so Mattel decided to use it for a Convention exclusive. That's strictly a theory, however.
Whatever the case, I am pleased to have the set, obviously. What we have here is a three-figure set that features one established character (as is usually the case), one fairly well-known figure in a different but well-established look who was probably the main selling point for the set, and one all-new character that's nevertheless very cool to have.
This set features GREEN LANTERN, THE RAY, and HAWKGIRL. Let's consider them in order, shall we?
GREEN LANTERN - When one says Green Lantern in the DC Universe, one also sort of has to ask, "Which one?" The Green Lantern Corps is a multi-planetary organization, the "soldiers" of the mysterious Guardians of the Universe based on the planet Oa. Representatives from thousands of worlds patrol the 3600 sectors of the universe, all armed with an amazing green power ring that can create anything its user can imagine out of solid light.
Even on Earth, there's been more than one Green Lantern. Hal Jordan. Guy Gardner. Kyle Rayner. But the Green Lantern best known in the Justice League Unlimited series is John Stewart.
John Stewart was originally chosen, in the comics, as Hal Jordan's backup. For a time, including during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Stewart was the primary Green Lantern after Hal Jordan seemingly retired. Stewart went on to have a decidedly storied and frequently rather tragic career, inadvertantly causing the death of an entire world, joining a team of interplanetary heroes called the Darkstars that didn't work out all that well, and finally getting his act together back on Earth after Hal Jordan became Parallax and when Kyle Rayner decided to head out into space for a time after some tragic events in his life. Stewart became a member in good standing of the Justice League, and comported himself abundantly well.
Today, Stewart is one of three Green Lanterns assigned to the Earth sector, including Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner.
In the animated series, Stewart was always portrayed as Earth's primary Green Lantern. He was presented as a former military man, a decidedly no-nonsense type who was one of the most determined members of the League. He had a romance with Hawkgirl, which fell apart following the Thanagarian invasion (more on THAT when I get to her entry in this review), and started dating Vixen, another member of the League. The relationship between Stewart and Hawkgirl added a depth of emotion to the Justice League cartoon that one doesn't normal encounter in animation, especially not an action-adventure series.
One thing I always found amusing about the character was that between "Justice League" and "Justice League Unlimited", somebody decided to have Stewart shave his head and grow a mustache and goatee. To this day I am convinced that this was a nod to the character of Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek Deep Space Nine. Actor Avery Brooks did the same thing between the third and fourth seasons of the series.
The Green Lantern figure has, of course, been seen before in other sets, but it's a good rendition of the character. Green Lanterns are, within reason, pretty much allowed to design their own uniforms. Well, Stewart being a fairly straightforward type kept his uniform fairly straightforward as well. Most of the uniform is black, with green shoulders, cuffs, and boots, with the Green Lantern insignia on the center of the chest.
The figure has the higher level of articulation granted to the "main characters" of the League, in that he has additional articulation at the waist, elbows, and knees, as well as head, arms, and legs. A circle representing his ring is on the right hand.
Likely any longtime fan of the Justice League probably already has a Green Lantern figure in their collection, but it's still a cool figure in the series.
THE RAY - This is an all-new character for the Justice League collection. There are actually two heroes in the DC Universe with the name of The Ray, and they are father and son. The father is a Golden Age hero first introduced in 1940. Reporter Langford "Happy" Terrill was exposed to solar radiation and gained the ability to transform into a being of pure energy whenever he was exposed to light. As the Ray, he was one of the most powerful crimefighters of the 1940s, and a member of both the Freedom Fighters and the All-Star Squadron. Being an entity composed by light, the original Ray is still alive today.
However, The Ray that is part of this Justice League series, and who is slightly better known to modern readers, is his son. He first appeared in his own series in 1992, and has since been part of both the Justice League and Justice Society. Although he and his father have had some trouble getting along, he is regarded as a hero in his own right, and has performed admirably on many occasions.
According to The Unofficial Guide to the DC Universe, Ray Terrill, the son of the original Ray, inherited his father's light powers but did not know of his heritage before he was in his late teens. Although pretty new in the game, the current Ray has been through a lot of adventures. He has saved the world on more than one occasion, battled super-villains such as Vandal Savage, Brimstone, and Mystek, traveled into the past as well as the future, and worked together with the Black Condor and Black Canary. He has also been a member of several hero teams, including Justice League America, Justice League Task Force, the Forgotten Heroes, and JSA Reserves and Young Justice.
The figure is a very cool animated-style rendition of the character, who actually has an impressive uniform design. Ray's father dressed in an all-yellow outfit. The son has proven to be a bit more fashionable. The Ray is outfitted with a yellow helmet, a black jacket with yellow trim on the collar and chest, white trousers, and black boots with yellow trim. It's really a very cool costume design.
The figure does an excellent job of reproducing this design, especially considering Mattel's practice of using common body parts. Ray's jacket collar had to be reproduced for this, and the rest of the costume design is imprinted very effectively on the body. One unusual point is that the legs, much like the entire rest of the figure escept for the head, appears to have been molded in black, with the legs painted white, even though only the boots on these "body segments" are black. Perhaps this was some sort of cost-saving measure. It's not that big of a deal, and the legs are neatly painted, although I suspect caution should be exercised in handling the figure somewhat. One advantage is that sometimes lighter colored plastic, especially white, will sometimes discolor over time. That's obviously not a factor here.
The end result, along with the new headsculpt, of course, is a very nice figure of the modern Ray, a character that otherwise wouldn't likely qualify to receive an action figure. So I'm pleased to have him.
HAWKGIRL - Here's where the review is going to get a little intense, and a lot more cartoon-centric. There really isn't a lot of point in getting into the history of the modern Hawkgirl character in the comics, since Kendra Saunders doesn't really have much to do at all with the Hawkgirl from the animated series except in basic appearance -- and not even that as a result of certain events within the animated series.
The final episodes of the Justice League animated series, before they picked up the "Unlimited" suffix and expanded the cast exponentially, was a movie entitled "Starcrossed". In this story, Earth was visited by the Thanagarians, seemingly benevolent, humanoid aliens who wore hawk-like uniforms and had artificial wings that allowed them to fly -- just like Hawkgirl. It turned out that Hawkgirl - Shayera Hol - was an advance scout for the Thanagarians. The Thanagarians seemingly offered all the benefits of their advanced technology to Earth, but in fact it was a prelude to a full invasion, something that even Hawkgirl was not aware of.
The invasion was, of course, defeated by the Justice League, who had to go undercover for a time (it was the first time Flash was unmasked in the series), but it left Hawkgirl decidedly on the outs with the Justice League, since she had defended the Thanagarians' actions probably longer than she should have, and pretty well shattered her relationship with Green Lantern John Stewart.
When the Justice League Unlimited series began, Hawkgirl was no longer part of the team. The continuity had, of course, carried over. She wasn't trusted, and in fact wasn't even operating extensively. She started to turn up here and there, but had abandoned her Hawkgirl identity. Instead, she was unmasked, and wore a yellow halter top and yellow leggings, both with black trim. It wasn't exactly civvies, but it wasn't quite a costume, either. And she was going by her Thanagarian name, Shayera, not Hawkgirl.
Over the course of the Unlimited series, she gradually regained the trust of most of the League, as well as the population of Earth, but she never resumed her Hawkgirl identity.
Hawkgirl had been one of the major players in the original Justice League series, ostensibly taking the place of Aquaman as one of the "big seven", since, I suspect, someone felt that there needed to be more than one female on the team other than Wonder Woman. The seven major players were still pretty much regarded as such even in the "Unlimited" series, even though their number had been reduced to six. Just as in the DC Universe, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman were the "big three", with Flash, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter close behind, even though Manny isn't quite regarded on the same scale as the others in some respects. These were the icons of the DC Universe.
Still, Shayera put in enough appearances in her yellow two-piece that a lot of collectors wanted to see a figure of her. Finally, Mattel has delivered on that.
Since as Hawkgirl, Shayera wore a bird-like mask and helmet, the figure needed an all-new headsculpt, and it's really an excellent one. Shayera has rather long, flowing brown hair, and this has been sculpted very well. The face sculpt is excellent. I've seen occasional carelessness creep into the Justice League line when it comes to headsculpts. It doesn't happen often, thankfully, but I'll never quite get past Vixen's light-bulb head. Shayera's overall headsculpt is excellent.
The body used is that of the original Hawkgirl figure, and for the most part it works. There's the slight problem of the fact that certain sculpted details no longer correspond to the revised costume, but the only place where this is just a little strange-looking is with regard to the belt buckle, which now appears to be part of Shayera's bare midriff.
Of course, Shayera has her wings, and these are very nicely sculpted and detailed. On the whole, this is really an excellent figure of a major character in the Justice League Unlimited series that needed to be produced in this particular appearance. I'm very pleased to see and have this figure.
This is really a cool three-pack of figures, even if I remain a little mystefied as to how it ended up as a ComiCon exclusive, since I sort of doubt that was the original plan for it. If you have the means to obtain it for a reasonable price, it's definitely worth adding to your Justice League collection. The Green Lantern figure is impressive, The Ray is a whole new character and very nicely done, and Shayera is certainly a major character in the animated series in this form.
Let me say this in conclusion. As of this writing I had until recently been quite concerned about the future of the Justice League line. This summer, any toy that didn't have a major summer movie backing it up basically got ignored as far as being stocked on the shelves of toy stores and toy departments was concerned. And Justice League suffered as a result.
However, there was a Mattel seminar at the San Diego ComiCon that went a long way to alleviating my fears. Along with announcing that Mattel had expanded their arrangement with DC Comics so that they were now the master toy licensor for DC (apparently this does not affect DC Direct), opening the doors to literally hundreds of characters for Mattel to make use of, the matter of the Justice League line was specifically addressed.
Basically, Mattel said that -- as long as we keep buying them, they'll keep making them. Despite the fact that the animated series is sadly off the air, the line retains a good popularity, admittedly increasingly more among collectors than kids. But Mattel is prepared to cater to that audience, introducing more characters (there is even a chance of figures of the long overdue Charlton-originated heroes that appeared in the series, Captain Atom and The Question), and basically keeping the line going as long as we want it enough for Mattel to justify it.
Mattel plans a major push of DC-related products, and they want Justice League to be a part of that. So do I. So, I hope, do you. Granted the figures are not always easy to find. But they are still out there, and it is my sincere hope that the Justice League Unlimited line will continue to be expanded and produced for many years to come.
And as for this particular three-pack, featuring GREEN LANTERN, THE
RAY, and HAWKGIRL, it certainly has my enthusiastic recommendation!