REVIEW: TARGET EXCLUSIVE JUSTICE LEAGUE GREEN LANTERN
In this so-called "information age", where virtually any bit of news is readily accessible via the Internet, including no shortage of toy-related news, it's virtually impossible to be surprised anymore by anything in the toy aisles.
Honestly, I rather miss those days. I don't mind being well-informed. But I can recall on several occasions walking into a toy store in the 1980's, seeing a new batch of G.I. Joes, and thinking, "Cool! I didn't know about these!" I remember in late 1987, seeing a box of G.I. Joe figures at Toys "R" Us. The shipping box had been opened, but the figures had not been taken out. I took a closer look, and it was the new Battle Force 2000 figures, on their single cards, before they were offered in two-packs. The different-colored background, the entirely new figures, that cool Battle Force 2000 logo (and in 1987, the year 2000 still sounded rather futuristic). I was excited! I was impressed! And whoever had to stock the rest of those figures on the pegs, I saved them the trouble of six of them.
That sort of thing doesn't happen much these days. We have months of advance notice about forthcoming toys, and we tend to become quite impatient when they don't show up when we expect them to, and get downright outraged when for whatever reason, they don't show up at all.
Well, I was surprised by something that turned up at Target. Maybe I shouldn't have been. I'll admit, I don't "surf the Net" as much as some people. I'm not trying to track down every niggling little detail about every toy line I collect, waiting for UPC's, store distribution tracking numbers, expected ship dates, and so forth. I try to keep reasonably informed, but I'm generally content to have a general idea of what's expected when, and pay attention to the retailers in my area and hope it shows up.
So imagine my surprise when I was perusing the toy section at a Target near me, and here was a small space devoted to a new line of JUSTICE LEAGUE figures! I certainly hadn't heard about these. There wasn't any current animation that I was aware of, and the figures certainly weren't DC Universe Classics type. They were smaller, and certainly had a more animated-style to them.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that the very colorful and impressively-illustrated package cards used a cool variant of the last Justice League logo before the company-wide overhaul, all of the figures in the line -- including Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Lex Luthor (although I didn't see him) -- are all based on their "New 52" likenesses. As far as I'm concerned, that makes the entire line worthless -- with one exception. GREEN LANTERN was the least modified in appearance of any of those heroes, and he happens to be a personal favorite, so I decided to bring him in.
I've had some people ask me -- why do I hate DC's "New 52" so much? There are several reasons. For one thing -- it's been used as an excuse to make the characters and stories "edgier", more "socially significant", more "politically active" -- whatever you want to call it. That's not why I read comics -- any comics, from any publisher. If I want edgy socio-political cartoons, I'll read the editorial page of the newspaper -- which I don't, by the way. I read comic books for grand adventure, for escapist entertainment. That's what super-heroes are for.
You can see why I'm upset, and I know I'm not the only one. And you can understand why I couldn't care less about any toy line that's going to take its cues from this "New 52". But, Green Lantern looked more than enough like his proper incarnation, unlike the others, so I decided to give him a break.
Obviously, this is Hal Jordan, not that Simon Baz character they've created recently, the one that looks like he stole a wrestling mask out of the WWE locker room. No, this is Hal Jordan, who certainly has a lengthy legacy in the DC Universe as it should be. Let's have a look at the history of the character, and then this action figure.
Harold "Hal" Jordan is the first human shown to join the Green Lantern Corps and a founding member of the Justice League of America. Jordan is the second DC Comics character to adopt the Green Lantern moniker. Jordan was created in the Silver Age of Comic Books by John Broome and Gil Kane, and made his first appearance in Showcase #22 (October 1959) to replace the original Green Lantern Alan Scott from the Golden Age of Comic Books.
In 1994, the story "Emerald Twilight" saw Hal Jordan turn into the supervillain Parallax. Later, in the Zero Hour miniseries, he attempts cosmic genocide. He was replaced by Kyle Rayner as the new Green Lantern. In 1996's crossover story "The Final Night", he attempted to return to his heroic roots by dying to save the Earth, and later returned as a spirit of redemption in the persona of the Spectre.
Hal Jordan was resurrected in the 2004 miniseries Green Lantern: Rebirth, which revealed that Parallax was actually an alien parasitic entity that influenced his prior villainy. He subsequently returned to the Green Lantern Corps and became the protagonist of the subsequent volumes of Green Lantern.
After achieving great success in 1956 in reviving the Golden Age character The Flash, DC editor Julius Schwartz looked toward recreating the Green Lantern from the Golden Age of Comic Books. Like The Flash, Schwartz wanted this new character to have a different secret identity, origin, and personality than his 1940s counterpart. A long time science-fiction fan and literary agent, Schwartz wanted a more sci-fi based Green Lantern, as opposed to the mystical powers of Alan Scott, the 1940's Green Lantern. He enlisted writer John Broome and artist Gil Kane, who in 1959 would reintroduce Green Lantern to the world in Showcase #22 (September–October 1959).
The character was a success, and it was quickly decided to follow-up his three issue run on Showcase with a self-titled series. Green Lantern #1 began in July–August 1960 and would continue until #84 in April–May 1972.
From Green Lantern #151 (April 1982) until #172 (January 1984), Jordan was exiled into space for a year by the Guardians in order to prove his loyalty to the Green Lantern Corps, having been accused of paying too much attention to Earth when he had an entire sector of the cosmos to patrol. When he returned to Earth, he found himself embroiled in a dispute with Carol Ferris. Faced with a choice between love and the power ring, Jordan chose to resign from the Corps. The Guardians called upon Jordan's backup, John Stewart, to regular duty as his replacement.
In 1985, the "Crisis on Infinite Earths" storyline that rebooted much of DC Comics' character continuity saw Jordan again take up the mantle of Green Lantern. The new Corps, with seven members residing on Earth, included several aliens, John Stewart, and Guy Gardner. The alien Lanterns took a more direct hand in human affairs, a fact not appreciated by human governments. Eventually, the Earth corps broke up, with several members returning to their home sectors. The Guardians soon returned to this dimension, and Jordan worked with them to rebuild the fractured Corps.
During this time, the character's origin story was re-told and expanded in two limited series by Gerard Jones, Emerald Dawn and Emerald Dawn II. The first series expanded the role of the Corps in his origin and also provided more details about his childhood and his relationship with his father and brothers, while the sequel detailed the role of Jordan in the downfall of Sinestro.
In the 1993 Reign of the Supermen storyline, the villainous Hank Henshaw disguised as a reborn Cyborg Superman enlists the alien tyrant Mongul and his forces and comes to Earth in a plot to take advantage of the death of Superman. In the process, Coast City (Jordan's former home) is destroyed and all of its seven million inhabitants murdered, bringing Jordan to take revenge on Mongul, who had replaced it with Engine City, with which he planned to turn Earth into a new Warworld. Jordan was off world at the time of the attack on his hometown, having returned well after its destruction. It was later revealed that the Cyborg Superman's wife came from Coast City, and he destroyed it as he wanted to remove all traces of his past life.
This leads into the Emerald Twilight arc: Jordan uses his power ring to recreate Coast City as an instrument in the process of overcoming his grief, talking to ring created versions of his old girlfriend and parents. After his ring's power expires a projection of a Guardian appears and admonishes him for using the ring for personal gain and summons him to Oa for trial.
Angered at what he sees as the Guardians' ungrateful and callous behavior, Jordan absorbs the energy from the Guardian's projection, goes insane and attacks Oa to seize the full power of the Central Battery, destroying the Corps in the process, taking their power rings as his own and leaving them to die in space, and ending the arc when he kills Kilowog, Sinestro who has been resurrected to fight him but has his neck snapped, and all the Guardians except for Ganthet who was protected by the other Guardians and survived without Jordan's knowledge. He then renounces his life as Green Lantern, adopting the name Parallax after absorbing the Power Battery's vast powers. After he emerges from the Central Power Battery, he walks past and looks at the dead Guardians and steps on his former ring, crushing it in the process.
Jordan is replaced by Kyle Rayner by Ganthet as the Green Lantern of Earth when Rayner comes into possession of the last power ring, created from the shattered remains of Jordan's.
DC Comics subsequently began a new Green Lantern series starting with issue #1 (July 2005), making Hal Jordan once again a Green Lantern and his past homicidal actions retconned to be the result of Parallax, now revealed to be caused by Hal having been 'infected' by the Parallax fear entity that had possessed him.
Trying to rebuild his life, Hal Jordan has moved to the nearly deserted Coast City, which is slowly being rebuilt. He has been reinstated as a Captain in the United States Air Force, and works in the Test Pilot Program at Edwards Air Force Base. The series introduces new supporting characters for Hal, most notably a man from Hal's past, Air Force's General Jonathan "Herc" Stone, who learned Hal's secret as Green Lantern during a battle with the Manhunters and acts as his ally. He also begins to develop a romantic attraction with his fellow pilot, the beautiful Captain Jillian "Cowgirl" Pearlman. The returning characters also include Carol Ferris, Tom Kalmaku, and Hal's younger brother James Jordan with his sister-in-law Susan and their children, Howard and Jane.
The Green Lantern Corps also has been successfully rebuilt. Despite the revelation that Hal's past villainous activity was because of the influence of Parallax, many of Hal's fellow Corps officers (except Kilowog, Salaak, Stewart, Gardner, and Rayner) are unwilling to trust him. Despite being freed from Parallax, his experience also has led Hal occasionally to lack of confidence and self-doubts. Hal also become friends with Kyle Rayner after their first battle with Parallax.
A new account of Green Lantern's origins was released in the most recent, pre-New-52 Green Lantern series. In this new origin, Hal Jordan, is working as an assistant mechanic under Tom Kalmaku himself, barred from flying due to his insubordination while in the U.S.A.F. and his employers lingering guilt about his father's death in the line of duty, when Abin Sur, fighting Atrocitus of the Five Inversion, crashes near Coast City.
Hal and the rest of the Green Lantern Corps find themselves at war with Sinestro and his army, the Sinestro Corps during the events of the Sinestro Corps War. In the Agent Orange story arc, Hal Jordan is briefly in command of Agent Orange's power battery after he steals it from Agent Orange in a battle. The orange light of avarice converses with Jordan, his costume changes, and he becomes the new Agent Orange. However, Larfleeze quickly takes his power battery back from Jordan.
During the Blackest Night, Hal allies himself with six other Lantern Corps during The War of Light. He finds himself facing many of his deceased allies, enemies, and people he failed to save reanimated as undead Black Lanterns under the control of the Green Lantern Corps' ancient enemy Nekron. Hal finds himself not only teaming up with Barry Allen - The Flash, who is also resurrected from his death, but also must work with his enemies Sinestro, Atrocitus, Larfleeze, and his former love that he has sort of got back together with Carol Ferris (who is now a Star Sapphire once more). Hal fights the Guardian, "Scar", whom he defeats according to the prophecy from the "Book of Oa".
After the events of Brightest Day: Green Lantern, the storyline continues into War of the Green Lanterns. Hal and Guy are captured by Krona and forced to watch Krona taunt Hal that his friends including Carol are stuck in the so-called "Book of the Black". During the final battle, Hal manages to free Carol, Sinestro and the others from the Book of the Black. Hal kills Krona, releasing the entities from the Guardians. However, the Guardians believing Hal to be the most dangerous Green Lantern, discharge him from the Corps, strip him of his ring and return him to Earth. It is revealed that the Guardians are afraid of Jordan because they believe what happened to Krona would eventually happen to them if they allow him to continue being a Green Lantern. This has led into the "New DC 52" stories for Green Lantern, which obviously I'm not going to get into here.
So, how's the figure? Really very nicely made. I find myself wondering if these Justice League figures are intended to be compatible with a recent line of Batman figures that didn't seem particularly affiliated with anything -- neither the movies nor any recent animation, and definitely none of the events in the comic book. And yet I'm not 100% sure that these Justice League figures are size-compatible, since I don't own any of those particular Batman figures.
I do think it's interesting to note on the sales receipt that I got from Target when I made my purchase that this Justice League Green Lantern figure is officially listed in Target's inventory system as "Batman", but that might have just been done for convenience.
Also, I question whether these figures started out as Target exclusives. They have that red-and-white "Only at Target" sticker on their package, but it was obviously applied separately. It's not part of the printing. And that Batman line I just mentioned is not a Target exclusive. I've seen it elsewhere. Nothing of any real consequence, just an interesting observation.
I will say this: New 52 or no New 52, I'm pleased that Mattel is maintaining a DC presence in the toy stores, especially since most of the movie media tie-ins are Marvel-based. Avengers, Iron Man, Spider-Man -- DC's having a tough time of it. I've been impressed to see the new DC Universe Classics-like "DC Unlimited" and "Batman Unlimited" lines at several retailers, even if, sadly, they are mostly "New 52" based. It gives me some hope that as such time as DC gets back on track, there will be a place for more appropriate DC action figures.
And this Justice League line, while New 52 based and a bit of an oddity, is also an interesting addition to the toy store shelves.
Green Lantern stands a very even 5" in height. Interesting scale, and not one often seen these days. He's certainly taller than anyone in the 4" category, such as G.I. Joe, Star Wars, Marvel Universe, or current Power Rangers, but he's also distinctly shorter than anyone in the 6-7" scale category, such as DC Unlimited, WWE, or Marvel Legends.
Green Lantern has a good headsculpt that's not quite as cartoonish as the rest of his body. It's somewhat exaggerated, especially the limited detail in the hair, but it's unquestionably Hal Jordan. It doesn't quite look like Hal from his excellent CGI animated series, nor is it entirely realistic, but it's a cool design.
The body definitely has an animated look to it, but it's difficult to peg it to any particular established style. It's not like Bruce Timm's designs. It's not Young Justice. It's not the Green Lantern animated series. But neither is it the more realistic imagery that one expects in the average comic book -- and most action figures that aren't specifically based on an established animated format. For all I know, it's something right out of the imaginations of Mattel, and it's impressive that they could come up with something that doesn't look like any established style -- and there's certainly been plenty of those -- and yet looks this impressive on its own -- as if he could have come from some animated series, somehow.
The style has some common characteristics with known animated styles of, shall we say, heroic-type humans. The chest is broad and muscular, the abdomen somewhat leaner, the arms and legs well-defined if a little slender relative to the chest, with moderate exaggerations of the limbs' musculature. Honestly, the overall proportions aren't as, for lack of a better term, distorted as I've seen elsewhere, anything from several DC-based animated series to shows such as Ben 10 where realistic proportions admittedly go out the window, but where some of the characteristics I listed above still maintain.
Green Lantern is wearing his traditional costume. Mostly green over the shoulders and down the torso, black on the sides with black arms and black leggings, with green boots and white gloves. A few "New 52" concessions have been made, including a bit of a "V" at the collar, and up-angled boots, as well as a few decorative lines in a somewhat lighter shade of green on the shoulders.
These lines, as much as anything, are what really annoy me on the new costume designs out of the "New 52". They just make the costumes look too complex, too over-worked. Fortunately in Green Lantern's case, they're very minimal. As I said, he's the least affected by the lot.
One thing that surprised me a bit was the fact that the glove line is actually sculpted into the lower arms. And, since three of the other four figures -- I don't know about Luthor since I haven't seen him yet and he's heavily armored -- all use the same body molds, this line throws off the Superman figure a bit, since unlike the others, he doesn't wear gloves. One wonders why they sculpted the line in. It's not a hindrance on Green Lantern, but it seems a little pointless.
Articulation isn't bad, but it's not all that extensive. Green Lantern is poseable at the head, arms, elbows, waist, and legs. Then again, that's more than some action figures are getting these days.
His details are neatly painted. The green of his costume has a slight metallic sheen to it, and the Green Lantern emblem is neatly imprinted. Facial details are well done. One of his gloves is a little on the sloppy side, as if too much paint was used, but if the white gloves had to overcome the black sleeves, I can almost see how this could happen. And a small green circle on the back of one of his fingers on his right hand represents his ring.
Green Lantern comes with a small accessory, a transparent green "ring construct" that can fit over his hand. It looks like a short, thick knife blade. Definitely not a sword. More like some sort of hunting knife.
So, what's my final word? On the one hand, I'm pleased to see a good variety of DC Universe figures out there, and a new Justice League line is a nice surprise, seeing as how there isn't a lot being done with the property in the media at the moment. On the other hand, I just wish it wasn't "New 52" based. I just simply cannot support anything affiliated with that. The best I can say is that the only real reason I'm glad items like these are around is that they'll maintain a DC presence of some sort in the stores until such time as things get straightened out in the DC Universe.
However, from a purely visual standpoint, Green Lantern is the least affected of the group, and he is a nicely made figure. There's no reason one has to perceive him as representative of the "New 52". And as a longtime fan of Green Lantern, I certainly have plenty of other Green Lantern figures here. Super Powers, a 9" cloth-costumed GL that Hasbro made when they had the license, an 8" Mego-style figure that Mattel made as part of their Retro-Action series, a couple of versions from his live-action movie, and of course a number of DC Universe Classics incarnations. This Justice League figure makes a nice addition to that group, and if you're a GL fan, then you'll enjoy adding him to your collection, as well.
The GREEN LANTERN figure from the Target-exclusive JUSTICE LEAGUE line definitely has my most enthusiastic recommendation!