You know, while I generally like the various "Crisis" storylines that have worked their way through the DC Universe over the years, in my opinion, one of my least favorite moves leading up to "Final Crisis" was the destruction of the Fourth World and their New Gods. They're being heavily reworked within the pages of "Final Crisis", and as of this writing (and reading) about midway through the series, you can consider me so thoroughly unimpressed with the results that I don't even plan to read the rest of it. I rather expected that the "Final Crisis" was going to involve further details surrounding the restoration of the Multiverse. That, I would have been impressed with. But this in my opinion is a mess...!
I've covered the Fourth World and the New Gods in other reviews before, so I'll only provide the most basic summary of it here. It was created by the legendary Jack Kirby in the early 1970's. It focused on the adventures of so-called "New Gods" on the other-dimensional world of New Genesis. Among its most prominent characters were Orion, Lightray, Mr. Miracle, and the Highfather. New Genesis, a virtual paradise of a planet, was in constant conflict with the grim and foreboding planet of Apokolips. Ruled by the equally grim and foreboding Darkseid, its prominent members included the likes of DeSaad, Granny Goodness, Kalibak, and others, all helping Darkseid in his quest to discover the Anti-Life Equation, which would enable him to bend the wills of all life to his own.
Darkseid's ambitions eventually -- and frequently -- brought him into conflict with the super-heroes of Earth. The eventual absence of a specific New Gods or Fourth World title didn't slow down the Lord of Apokolips one bit. He'd turn up in Justice League, Superman, even put in a considerable appearance in Legion of Super-Heroes. He was one of two main villains, along with Dark Phoenix, in the epic DC/Marvel crossover between the X-Men and the Teen Titans. He even managed to find his way into the Super Friends animated series, and one of his earliest action figures was part of the Super Powers line from Kenner. Of course, he turned up in more modern animation, first in the Superman animated series, and later in the Justice League series.
It's disgustingly ironic that just as DC decides to scrap the concept and rework it to the point of unrecognizability, that a whole mess of action figures are coming out based on the original concept. And not just from Mattel. DC Direct is producing a series of Kirby-inspired figures. Meanwhile, Orion was part of the initial assortment of DC Universe Classics from Mattel, he'll be joining Lightray in a two-pack, and now we have this six-pack of Justice League Unlimited figures, a Target exclusive (as the entire Justice League line has become), entitled "ATTACK FROM APOKOLIPS".
I don't pretend to be an expert on the Fourth World characters. I never followed the original title. What I know of them I know from their other adventures in titles and concepts that I have followed. That having been said, along with the fact that this review has no less than SIX action figures to review, and I'd just as soon not have it run to the length of a college thesis, means that character backgrounds are going to be a little shorter than usual this time. With that, let's proceed:
SUPERMAN -- What's he doing in this set? Well, Superman had a couple of very nasty run-ins with Darkseid over the course of his own animated series, well before the days of Justice League. In fact, at one point, Darkseid even managed to brainwash the Man of Steel and turned him against the people of Earth. That particular bit of devastation caused a lot of grief for the Caped Kryptonian, as it took some time for him to win back the trust of the people of his adopted planet.
That he holds a grudge against Darkseid for that particular stunt would be considerable understatement. The first time Darkseid turned up in the Justice League animated series, which as far as official continuity is concerned, took place after the brainwashing episode, Superman went on a highly uncharacteristic rampage in pursuit of the Lord of Apokolips, and was barely restrained by other heroes. Bottom line -- Superman doesn't like Darkseid, doesn't trust Darkseid, and if there's one being in the universe that I think Superman would be prepared to kill, despite his oath against doing so, it's probably Darkseid.
Need it be said, that anytime there's an "Attack from Apokolips", you can bet that Superman is going to be front and center to put a stop to it.
I'm sure I don't need to go into Superman's history here. The Man of Steel is one of the best known pop culture icons of all time. The figure of him in this set is a very capable one. Its original manufacture date is listed as 2003, which puts it right in the time period of the first offerings of the Justice League line.
Superman is fairly limited in his articulation. Although later versions of the most major characters in the Justice League series, which certainly includes Superman, were given greater articulation, this is one of the earlier figures. Not a big deal. It's still a cool figure. Superman is poseable at the head, arms, and legs. The cape is made from a lightweight and very flexible plastic. It's been commented online that the capes for the DC figures that Mattel is producing seem to be becoming lighter in weight, and more flexible. If true, and I am inclined to agree with the assessment, then this is a good thing. There's been more than a few figures that have been downright back-heavy as a result of too much cape, and tend to topple over backwards when you try to stand them up.
Unlike many of the figures in the Justice League line, which share common body molds, Superman is a distinct figure unto himself. Things like the chest symbol and boot details are not just painted onto the figure, they're sculpted into it. And Mattel has done a really nice job with Superman. The blue of his uniform might be a little darker than usual, but not disagreeably so.
One thing, speaking of colors -- his skin tone is a little paler than some other recent additions. This, as far as I'm concerned, is also a positive point. I've seen a few Superman figures in this line from time to time that looked like they had a bit of sunburn. You'd think Superman would be immune to that sort of thing...
Overall, this is a very decent Superman figure.
MR. MIRACLE - One of the core characters of the Fourth World concept, and someone who's had his own title on several occasions, and been a member of several versions of the Justice League. Mr. Miracle is Scott Free, born on New Genesis but raised on Apokolips, as part of a truce between New Genesis' Highfather and Darkseid (New Genesis got Darkseid's son Orion, who's not in this set, but there is a figure of him in the JLU line). Scott Free eventually escaped, and made his home on Earth. He is renowned as an escape artist -- he'd have to be, to have gotten away from Apokolips.
Mr. Miracle has been available in the JLU line before, in a previous three-pack. I don't believe he's ever been single carded. He's a cool figure with a distinctive look, but there can be occasional problems with the costume design.
Jack Kirby was known for his complex and often quirky design work. And certainly that carried over into his work on the New Gods. Mr. Miracle has a very complicated costume of red, yellow, and green, that, while it may look really cool on the printed page, I tend to believe causes some measure of havoc when translated into an action figure. For this reason:
Not all paint colors are going to work well with all colors of plastic. Painting a lighter color over a darker color of plastic may result in the painted color not looking quite as it should. And if you use a thicker coating of paint, you risk globbing and messing up the paint. Then you have the challenge of matching plastic and paint colors, if some parts are to be, say, molded red, and others painted red, and they still have to match.
Mr. Miracle's costume features a pullover headpiece that is mostly red with a yellow "face", a red shirt with yellow midriff and lower sleeves, red leggings, red belt, green trunks, gloves, boots, and cape, and a certain amount of additional cross-color details like little yellow dots in the boots and belt. You can practically hear the color workers at Mattel screaming about this one. And -- oh, yeah, his eyes need to be fully painted, too.
Believe me, finding a neatly painted Mr. Miracle is no easy feat. The one I have with this set is very decent. I'd rate him an 8 out of 10. I later saw one that I would give a 9.5 out of ten, because the eyes and some of the details were a little straighter. But I wasn't going to pick up a six-pack for ONE figure. If he'd been single carded, then heck, yes.
Still, the Mr. Miracle I have isn't bad. About the worst thing I can say about him is one of his eyes is a little off center compared to the other. It's a little weird-looking, but I think I can correct it. Other than that, he's really very decent, and is certainly a character worthy of being in this set. The figure uses the standard "male" body molds, with his own distinct fancy high-collared cape, nicely flexible like Superman's. And in Mattel's defense, the eyes can't have been easy to paint. You've got the whites, the blue irises, the black pupils, and a bit of red around them. Lord knows I've seen other action figures from other lines and other companies that seem to be challenged when painting this area on their figures.
Overall, this figure is a very cool and impressive rendition of the legendary Kirby character, in the animated format.
DARKSEID - You don't think there would be an "Attack from Apokolips" set without that planet's ruler, do you? Of course not.
Darkseid has, of course, appeared in the Justice League line before. In fact, he was in the same three-pack with Mr. Miracle a while back. But he's a popular enough character, and he really does need to be in this set.
Darkseid is the absolute ruler of Apokolips. A literally hellish world, with massive firepits spewing volcanic fire and gases high into the atmosphere, the population lives in a constant state of fear, poverty, torture, suffering, and total servitude to Darkseid. Darkseid's primary means of enforcement are his Parademons, near mindless creatures that patrol the planet with utter ruthlessness. Darkseid has his aides and assistants, but he doesn't trust any of them all that far, nor should he. Darkseid's ultimate power is the Omega Effect, eyebeams that can track any target anywhere once they have been fired, and totally obliterate that target into nothingness.
Darkseid's ultimate objective is the acquisition of the Anti-Life Equation, which I mentioned at the top of this review. At the same time, over the years, Darkseid has come to realize that if he's ever going to be victorious, he needs to get Earth's considerable population of super-heroes out of the way, and has hatched numerous schemes in his attempts to do so. He has, infrequently, teamed up with the heroes against greater threats, including the Anti-Monitor during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and Imperiex during the "Worlds at War" storyline. But these have been the exceptions. Ultimately, Darkseid regards all life as subsevient to him, and barely worth noticing or acknowledging, and when necessary, always with disdain and contempt.
Darkseid has his own distinctive set of molds. He needs to have. He's a huge individual, tall and broad, very heavily built. There's no way he'd fit into any of the standard molds for this line. Darkseid stands almost 5-1/2" in height, with a massive physique.
Customarily, Darkseid's uniform, which consists of a tunic, gloves, and high boots, generally appears to be dark blue. For this figure, it's been molded in black, which still works. If nothing else, there's no reason to assume he has just one set of clothes.
Darkseid's skin is a rough and craggy-looking grey. His upper legs are a greyish purple, leading one to believe that he has some sort of leggings. This isn't necessarily in keeping with the comics, but it's not really worth quibbling about.
Any complaints? Just one. The face has a number of cracks and creases molded into it. This is actually appropriate, but what I think was really unnecessary was highlighting those cracks in black. It just didn't need to be done, and it wasn't even done very well. It looks like it was done by hand with someone using the paint equivalent of a Sharpie marker.
On the up side of things, given his very individual molds, Darkseid enjoys a higher level of articulation than average for the Justice League line. Not only is he poseable at the head, arms, and legs, but also the elbows, knees, and waist. Also unlike far too many Justice League figures, his overall bulk is such that there's not much way he's NOT going to stand up on his own.
Blackened face cracks aside, this is really a superb version of the animated version of a legendary DC character.
FORAGER - Forager is the most prominent of a race of beings known as "Bugs" that live on New Genesis. Largely scavengers believed to be only semi-sentient, they're smarter than they look and act, and frankly don't even look insectoid. Forager has turned up in the Justice League animated series in the two-part "Twilight" episode.
The character first appeared in New Gods #9 (August 1972), and was created by Jack Kirby, of course.
Evolving from the "micro-life" spread on New Genesis during their war with Apokolips, Forager's people are a society of humanoid bugs that thrive in colonies beneath the surface of the planet. These colonies are ruled by beings known as the Queen-Widow and Prime-One. Considered to be below the New Gods of the floating city, Supertown (both literally and figuratively), the bugs form a lower class on New Genesis and are sometimes the target of prejudice by the gods.
Although Forager was raised among the insect nation, it is implied in New Gods #9 that he is in fact not of their species and may be from the race of gods. His true background is never fully explored. When the bug society is threatened, Forager is sent by his colony's rulers to entreat the gods for aid. With help from Orion and Lightray, he prevents Mantis from slaughtering the bug species.
Initially treated as subhuman by the New Gods, particularly the hot-headed Orion, Forager proves himself to be a worthy ally against the forces of Darkseid. He eventually meets his end saving the Batman's life and preventing the destruction of Earth from the embodiment of the Anti-Life Equation in the limited series Cosmic Odyssey. Later Orion carries Forager's body to the Insect empire by the decree of Highfather, and slowly comes to respect the warrior and his people.
The character is very distinctly Kirby-esque. The character wears a squarish hood with diamond-shaped goggles with little antennae sticking out of the top. The hood, arms, and legs of the figure are a dark burgundy. More diamond shapes run down both legs. Forager is dressed in a white tunic with a black belt, and is the only figure in the six-pack to come with an accessory, a small round shield.
Besides the distinctive head, there are some things that make me think that Forager is a more unique figure than most. The copyright date for the figure does not appear on the body, but rather on the back of the tunic, and it reads 2008. Additionally, Forager is somewhat shorter in height than the "typical male hero" molds used for Justice League Unlimited figures, and his legs are noticeably more slender.
Unfortunately, this also means that he has a lot of trouble standing up on his own. I am seriously starting to wonder if this is a problem with the molds, or a problem of these figures being jammed back-first into their very tight plastic framework packaging before the plastic has fully stabilized. Either way, something needs to be corrected here.
Forager isn't exactly someone I would call a major player in the DC Universe, but the figure, even in the animated format here, clearly bears the marks of Jack Kirby, and is a nice representative of the New Gods/Fourth World concept which has been so poorly treated by DC of late. So I'm glad to have him.
MANTIS - Here was a character that I really didn't know much about. He was clearly a bad guy, but I couldn't recall him hanging around with Darkseid's minions all that much. Fortunately, a little online search provided some basic information.
Mantis is the leader of a colony of humanoid insects that migrated from New Genesis, in return for his fealty Darkseid gifted him with great power. He typically spent time in a power pod recharging his energies but he could also absorb energies sent at him by an opponent such as Green Lantern. Mantis has at times served as Darkseid's lackey and, like many of the denizens of Apokolips, has occasionally risen up against his master. The character first appeared in Forever People #2 (vol. 1, June 1971), and was created by writer-artist Jack Kirby.
The character did appear in the Justice League Unlimited series, and as a figure, is certainly one of the more distinct. Although the figure uses the same male body molds as a lot of characters in the line, the colors and other details make him a serious standout. For one thing he's bright green. That's not a color that turns up in DC all that often -- the Riddler notwithstanding. The costume is molded in a very bright green, with dark green lines on the front down to the legs, darker green boots and gloves, and black ridge marks on the chest, as well as the gloves and boots, although these later ones don't show up all that well.
Then there's the head. There's a face you're not going to forget, even if you want to. A seriously ugly mug masked by an even brighter green headpiece with huge antennae and pointed ears. How much of this is actually Mantis and how much of it is just part of the mask for effect, I don't know and don't really care to speculate.
And to top it off, there's the fabric -- yes, fabric -- glider wings. This isn't a cape. It's a piece of bright green fabric attached to the neck, arms, and legs by plastic clips. Presumably this allows Mantis to fly. Curiously, the figure looks more impressive with his arms raised up, given the way the glider wings are positioned and attached.
Although not a major character, he certainly makes for an interesting action figure, and most definitely has a distinctive look to him. A very impressive addition to this line.
LASHINA - One of Darkseid's "Female Furies", under the command of Granny Goodness. Probably the closest Apokolips has to a "Ladies' Book Club", this gang of trained warriors and occasional lunatics have names like Stompa and Mad Harriet, among others.
Then there's Lashina. Leave it to Darkseid to employ someone who looks like she's dressed in black leather and has an affinity for whips. The really scary thing is how many places on Earth she could probably find gainful employment with these tendencies.
The character first appeared in Mister Miracle vol. 1 #6 (January 1972). Lashina is raised a warrior in Granny Goodness' orphanage, and takes over leadership of the Female Furies when Big Barda leaves Apokolips for Earth.
Her history in the DC comics universe is a pretty strange one. During an extended bout with amnesia, she operated on Earth under the name of Duchess, and worked with the government-sponsored Suicide Squad, a gathering of super-villains forced to work as heroes.
Her memory comes back to her and she plans a return to Apokolips. She convinces many members of the Squad to come with her and others, she outright kidnaps. The plan ends in a battle against Apokolips forces once the group lands on the planet's surface. Multiple Squad members were killed as a result.
Lashina has since battled Young Justice, Birds of Prey and Wonder Woman. She is also a long-time enemy of Superman and his counterparts Superboy and Supergirl. In other appearances she has been seen battling Firestorm, Orion and Hawkgirl.
Her animated history is just as interesting: Lashina appeared on Superman: The Animated Series in several episodes. Her first appearance was in the two-parter "Little Girl Lost," where she, along with Stompa and Mad Harriet, was summoned by Granny Goodness to battle Supergirl. Lashina was the leader of the Furies, and had the final battle with Supergirl at the end of the episode. She also appeared later during the series finale two-parter, Legacy, where she apparently had a romantic relationship with Superman, but attacked him when he turned on them. Lashina also appeared in Justice League Unlimited in the first part of the series finale, Alive. She was set to appear in Season 4 of Batman Beyond in which the events of Legacy begin to haunt Superman once again. It was revealed that they had a child and he became the new ruler of Apokolips. Their son invades Gotham City which gets the attention of Terry McGinnis and the Justice League. She helps them fight off his invasion. However, the series was cancelled. The writers said that they didn't want to use the idea in Justice League or Justice League Unlimited due to the fact they wanted to focus on new characters.
Her powers are super strength, speed, and durability. And she uses steel whips that she can charge with electricity. The figure, fortunately, does not come with any whips, although I can see some fans griping over this.
Lashina uses the standard female body molds, with a distinctive head. Lashina wears an odd sort of helmet and mask that has grey strips covering her nose and chin, but leaving her eyes and mouth exposed. That's visible of her face has a pretty nasty look to it. There is a length of plastic molded hair hanging from the back.
Costume details are relatively minimal. Lashina is dressed in black, with grey stripes and circles intersecting the lines Two of the circles are, shall we say, rather strategically placed. There are also two grey stripes around the left arm.
The figure does not stand up on her own easily. Unfortunately, because of the small feet, a partial result of the high heels molded to the feet, and the diagonal articulation at the hip, rather than the straight back and forth articulation of the male figures in this line, the articulation and the small surface contact of the feet don't give the female figures in the JLU line a lot of balance. Lashina does come with a transparent display base, as Mattel often provides for the female figures in this line, but I've always sort of been of the opinion that if any action figure (that has legs and feet, anyway, I suppose I should make some allowance for oddball aliens) needs a display base to stand up, then there's a design problem that needs more than a display base to correct.
Apart from this, though, Lashina is a cool figure, and like a number of the figures in this set, is probably someone who would never have otherwise seen an action figure were it not for this special set.
This is really one of the strengths of the JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED line, and one of the reasons I think it's kept going well after the animated series has concluded. They're prepared to do just about anybody from the DC Universe. I'm hopeful that the more comics-accurate "Infinite Heroes" line is able to follow in its path. I'm also hopeful for the long continuation of the JLU line, even as a Target exclusive.
So what's my final word here? What DC has done to the Fourth World in their comics is, in my opinion, a disgrace. What Mattel has done with these Fourth World characters in their Justice League Unlimited line is very cool.
And certainly, the JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED "ATTACK FROM APOKOLIPS"
6- pack definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!