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By Thomas Wheeler

One thing interesting to note about this new three-pack from Mattel's JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED line -- it features characters that have not appeared in the Justice League Unlimited series -- except in a flashback of sorts.

The JUSTICE LORDS, as they were known, actually turned up in one of the most remarkable two-parters of the JUSTICE LEAGUE series, before it took on the "Unlimited" suffix and expanded its membership exponentially.

In this story, we were treated to a Justice League from an alternate universe, one in which the heroes had become far more hardcore and pro- active, even tyrannical, some might say. It actually started with the death of the Flash, which was not shown. Apparently the demise of this relatively happy-go-lucky hero was a severe blow to the morale, not to mention the moral center, of the rest of the team.

Bad went to worse when President Luthor, who it should be noted was NOT President in the Justice League's universe with which we were familiar (but was in the mainstream DC comic books, but if I get into that, we'll all get a headache), threatened to start a nuclear war, and pushed Superman just a little too far with his taunts and threats. Without a trace of remorse, Superman barbecued Luthor with his heat vision.

Jump ahead two years, and the Justice Lords basically had a stranglehold of order on the Earth. They had also discovered the "main" universe, with the heroes and villains with which we were familiar. The Justice Lords decided to do our universe a favor, switch places with our League, and mop up the villainy. They nearly got away with it, too, lobotomizing Doomsday, and imprisoning our League. Ultimately, though, our Batman swayed the Justice Lords' Batman, and our Superman was willing to team up with Luthor to stop the rest of the Lords.

It was still an astounding two-parter, generally regarded as a favorite among fans, and presented the six members of the League/Lords in all-new costume designs, the most remarkable of which was Superman's, who was dressed in a mostly black uniform with white cape and boots.

With Mattel producing action figures for the Justice League even then, it was sincerely hoped that the Justice Lords might make the cut. It took a while, but three of them finally have been turned out as action figures, in one of the new three-packs. Justice Lords SUPERMAN, WONDER WOMAN, and BATMAN have finally been rendered in plastic.

So, how are the figures? Not bad at all -- although it's just as evident that Mattel is continuing to do this line as cheaply as they possibly can. I suspect with their forthcoming DC Super-Heroes line, a Batman-and- Superman-based series of highly-detailed, highly-articulated action figures that is clearly designed to give both DC Direct and Marvel Legends some serious competition, Mattel just doesn't regard the Justice League line with any great priority -- which is really too bad, because there's no question about the show's popularity, or that of its characters.

However, there's no question that the JUSTICE LORDS are welcome addition to the collection, and certainly long-awaited. Let's consider them

SUPERMAN: Easily the most dynamic redo of any of the costume designs, this Superman has a black costume with a white cape and other white details on the uniform, including a white triangular shape across the front of the uniform, with the famous "S" symbol shaped in red in the center. It's really a very different-looking Superman. The figure is superb, with one glaring bit of evidence that this was merely repainted from a previous "standard" Superman -- you can see the sculpted outline of the original boots on the lower legs. Is that the neighbor's canary I hear singing, "cheap, cheap, cheap"?

WONDER WOMAN: Also an extensive remake of the original. Interestingly, the photo of the prototype on the back of the package shows a figure obviously repainted from an original Wonder Woman, which given the sculpted details would've worked even less well than the glitch with Superman's boots. Fortunately, the body was switched to what I have to believe is a "generic" female body mold being used for most of the female super-heroes turning up in this line. While there's no sculpted details, at least there's no mismatch BETWEEN sculpted and painted details as such, so it's acceptable enough from that standpoint. This Wonder Woman has short hair, and is wearing a red bodysuit with black trim and a red "double W" insignia.

BATMAN: Also redone from a previous Batman figure, but he can get away with it a little more easily because the bat-symbol is NOT sculpted into the uniform, and apart from that, the uniform is structurally very similar to the Batman we know. The Bat-symbol is different, and the colors, in a sense, are reversed. The Justice Lords Batman has a black uniform with a grey cowl and cape. Perhaps the similarity is intentional. Batman is a grim customer in any universe.

My only other complaint about these figures is their inability to stand. Although Batman and Superman are articulated at the knees, which gives them greater mobility than most Justice League figures, the heavy plastic capes do have an adverse effect on their balance, and they don't even have holes in their feet for posing on display stands -- if they even came with stands, which they don't. The difficulty in standing these figures in one of the greatest problems of the entire line.

However, setting that aside, these ARE cool figures, and they represent one of the most popular episodes of the entire Justice League series. Fans have been hoping for Justice Lords figures since they came out. I don't know that we'll get a second set that would give us Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, and Hawkgirl, and honestly, I'd be a little surprised if we did. But at least we got the Justice Lords' "Big Three", and for any fan of the Justice League animated series, I most enthusiastically recommend this set!

I suggest you see about bringing the JUSTICE LORDS into your collection!