REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED THREE-PACK: FIRESTORM - ANGLE MAN - KILLER FROST
There's a question out there -- "If a tree falls in the forest and there's no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?" I've always argued that it does, since sound is really vibration through the atmosphere, and certainly a falling tree is going to cause a good bit of that. The fact that no one is around to receive those vibrations before they dissipate is really, I suppose, where the core of the question is. Of course, then there's my favorite response to that question that I've heard: "Yes, it makes a sound -- it sounds like a dozen angry squirrels."
Here's a similar question for the action figure world. If a toy line is technically no longer being produced, but it's still possible to find it without dealing with private collectors on the secondary market in order to get it -- is it really canceled?
I suppose as far as the company manufacturing it is concerned, it is. But the fans? Hey, if you can buy it at a good price, from a retail outlet, even an online retail outlet, and you're not dealing with another collector to get it, then as far as I'm concerned, it's new product.
I was recently browsing a particular Web Site named after a South American river, when I encountered a three-pack of figures from the JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED line, and two of them were ones that I'd never seen before. This three-pack featured FIRESTORM, whom I had seen individually packaged at one point, and villains ANGLE MAN and KILLER FROST, neither of whom I had previously encountered. I decided to bring them in.
And there's something mildly amusing, and slightly weird, about receiving a set of Justice League Unlimited action figures, that are still packed in their outer white "MattyCollector" box, which I ordered not from MattyCollector, but from another popular online Web Store site named after a particular river in South America...
And, as it turns out, if I had ever encountered Angle Man and Killer Frost before, it would've been a neat trick, since the package specifically states that this is Angle Man's first figure ever, and it's the first time for Killer Frost in the JLU style -- although off the top of my head, I'm not aware of any other Killer Frost figures. She's not in the DC Universe line. Maybe DC Direct did something.
Interestingly enough, the figure is also marked "Adult Collector". So clearly this is one of a number of sets that were produced by Mattel for the MattyCollector site, after the Justice League Unlimited line had left the retail market.
Really, I wish more action figure lines were like Justice League Unlimited. Now, the show itself was spectacular. After the resounding success of both the Batman and Superman animated series, DC and Warner Brothers decided to up the ante, and turned out an animated series based on the Justice League. That series featured a core team of seven characters -- Batman and Superman, of course, but also Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Martian Manhunter, and Hawkgirl. There were occasional popular guest stars.
After two successful seasons of this, the series became Justice League Unlimited, with literally dozens of heroes from all over the DC Universe. Green Arrow, Vixen, Captain Atom, Supergirl, Black Canary, Vigilante, Firestorm, Aquaman, Booster Gold, heck, one episode even gave us the Legion of Super-Heroes!
Needless to say, two seasons of a show like this made for plenty of action figure fodder for Mattel. But then, something unusual happened. Even after the show went off the air, there was still a demand for Justice League-style figures. So Mattel kept making the line, even adding characters that had never technically been in the show! The action figure line ran for years after the show had stopped being produced.
Like I said, I wish more action figure lines were like this. Ultimately, though, the action figure line ran its course, although a number of special three-packs and other sets, created for the collector market, are, as it turns out, still available. This is one of them.
Let's consider the characters and figures individually, shall we?
FIRESTORM - Firestorm was created by writer Gerry Conway and artist Al Milgrom, certainly two notable names in the business, and first appeared in Firestorm #1. dated March 1978.
Firestorm was distinguished by his integrated dual identity. High school student Ronald Raymond and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Martin Stein were caught in a nuclear accident that allowed them to fuse into the "nuclear man" Firestorm. Due to Stein's being unconscious during the accident, Raymond was prominently in command of the Firestorm form with Stein a voice of reason inside his mind. Banter between the two was a hallmark of their adventures.
The first Firestorm comics series was short-lived. However, The Fury of Firestorm, later called Firestorm: the Nuclear Man, lasted from 1982 until 1990. The series began with the teenaged Raymond adjusting to his newfound role and later delved into the issue of the nuclear arms race and Firestorm's role as an "elemental."
After the accident that created him, Firestorm took to defending New York from such threats as Multiplex and Killer Frost, hence, I believe, the presence of both characters in this set. The 1978 series was canceled abruptly in a company-wide cutback known as the "DC Implosion" with #5 the last to be distributed.
One might think this might have been the end of Firestorm, but something unusual happened. Writer Conway then added Firestorm to the roster of Justice League of America. This led to a series of 8-page stories in the back of The Flash (with art by George Pérez), and a revival of a monthly Firestorm comic in 1982, as well as Firestorm being added to the lineup of characters in the popular "Super Friends" animated series running on Saturday mornings on ABC at the time. It even garnered Firestorm his first-ever action figure in Kenner's Super Powers collection.
All of this for a character that could have easily vanished into obscurity after his original run.
Years later, Raymond was killed off during the Identity Crisis mini-series. In Identity Crisis #5 and Firestorm #6, during a battle with a villain called the Shadow Thief, Raymond was impaled by the Shining Knight's sword, which the Shadow Thief had stolen. The magical sword ruptured the nuclear man's containment field, resulting in Firestorm's body exploding and his residual essence funneling into the body of Jason Rusch, the new host of the Firestorm Matrix.
Following the Blackest Night and Brightest Day storylines, however, Ronnie Raymond returned, sharing the Firestorm Matrix with Jason Rusch. I honestly don't know (or much care) what's happened to the character in the New 52.
As to Firestorm's overall powers: Firestorm has the ability to rearrange the atomic and subatomic structure of matter, rearranging subatomic particles to create objects of different atomic characteristics of equal mass. He can not only change the atomic composition of an object (e.g., transmuting lead into gold of equal mass) but he can also change its shape. He cannot, however, affect organic matter. If he does there may be painful, even lethal, feedback. This organic limitation does not extend to his person as he can change himself at will, allowing him to regenerate tissue, to shapeshift, and to survive indefinitely without food, water and air. He can also fly at near super-sonic speed, emit blasts of nuclear energy, absorb many types of energy into his body harmlessly, see into the infra-red and ultra-violet parts of the spectrum, and he possesses superhuman strength, telescopic, microscopic, and molecular vision (this last allowing him to perceive the atomic and molecular structure of objects).
So, how's the figure? Really very nicely done. This is very much the classic Firestorm in the JLU style.
Although the JLU line has certain common body parts that are used whenever possible, Firestorm has certain distinctive attributes to his costume that made several unique parts necessary.
Obviously, there's his head. The top of Firestorm's head definitely helps the character live up to his name, as it appears to be on fire. Mattel did a cool job with this aspect, by molding the entire head in transparent orange, in order to make the fire look -- well, as fire-like as plastic is going to get, and you can actually get a pretty cool flickering effect by shining a light behind the figure's head -- and then by painting the rest of the head in opaque colors, including the red cowl around the head, and the flesh-tone of the face.
Firestorm's costume features two attributes that do not fit into a common body style -- flared shoulders and baggy sleeves. The arms of the figure are unique to Firestorm, and not only reflect the baggy sleeves, but also the sculpted detail on the gloves. And while the figure uses a standard upper body, it's been encased in a flexible plastic piece that was fitted over the torso during assembly, that not only gives Firestorm's costume the flared shoulders, but also the intricate emblem design on his front and back, which has been sculpted into this "overpiece" and painted very neatly.
Firestorm's legs are standard items, but the lower torso has vertical stripes painted onto it, another aspect of the character's costume.
Overall, it's an extremely effective animated-style incarnation of Firestorm. The colors, mostly yellow and red, are right on the money, and the likeness is excellent. This figure was available on an individual card, very close to the end of the retail run of the line, so it might well have been missed by many collectors. Here's a good chance to get him.
Now, let's consider the villains of the piece, starting with one of Firestorm's own enemies --
KILLER FROST - Killer Frost is the name of several supervillains that appear mainly as foes of the superhero Firestorm.
Crystal Frost was the first incarnation of Killer Frost. She appeared in Firestorm #3 (June 1978). While Crystal was studying to be a scientist in Hudson University, she fell in love with her teacher Martin Stein. While working on a project in the Arctic, Frost was upset to learn that Stein did not reciprocate her feelings. Frost accidentally locked herself in a thermafrost chamber but somehow survived. She was transformed in a way that she was able to absorb heat from a living being and project cold and ice. Calling herself "Killer Frost", she began her murderous crusade against men and clashed with Firestorm on many occasions. Frost eventually died after she absorbed too much energy from Firestorm.
Dr. Louise Lincoln is the second incarnation of Killer Frost. She first appeared in Firestorm (vol. 2) # 21 (March 1984) and used the name "Killer Frost" in issue #34. Lincoln was a colleague and friend to Crystal Frost. After her friend died, she decided to repeat the experiment as a last respect to her former mentor, and became the new Killer Frost. She became just as ruthless as her predecessor and began her own personal vendetta against Firestorm, whom she blamed for Frost's death.
During the Underworld Unleashed event, Frost attacked Hawaii, freezing part of the islands before being stopped by Superboy and Knockout.
After a group of mobsters put out a hit on Lois Lane, Frost rescued her from Solomon Grundy, only to then leave the reporter bound and gagged on a set of train tracks, hoping to take the credit and reward for Lane's death. Her plan was foiled by Superman, who promptly rescued Lois before the train could hit her.
Killer Frost was later freed by Effigy and the two had a brief flirtatious partnership before she was apprehended by Green Lantern.
Killer Frost was one of many supervillains seeking to earn a $1 billion reward offered by President Lex Luthor to sanction Superman and Batman, whom he considered treasonous, in the Superman/Batman "Public Enemies" arc. She teams with Mr. Freeze, Icicle, and Captain Cold in an attempt to ambush the two heroes in Washington D.C., but all four were defeated. They attack in a second wave, along with more villains such as Giganta and Gorilla Grodd but a similar backup of superheroes batter them all into submission.
Around this time, Lincoln discovered that she had contracted cancer, and tricked Jason Rusch, the new Firestorm, into curing her by posing as a normal young woman. With her health and powers restored, Frost went on a rampage, only to be defeated when Jason used his abilities to reverse his alterations to Lincoln's body, thus returning her to her sickly state.
Killer Frost returned during the events of One Year Later, where she had apparently entered into a relationship with Mr. Freeze. Together, the two villains went on a killing spree in Manhattan, hoping to draw Firestorm into an elaborate trap. Once the hero arrived, Killer Frost used a device to send both of them into space, where she sought to absorb the heat energy of the sun. Firestorm narrowly managed to stop her plan, and both Frost and Freeze were taken into custody by Batman.
Frost was later seen in the Justice League of America Wedding Special, battling Firestorm, until Lex Luthor, Joker, and Cheetah arrived, subdued Firestorm, and invited her to join the new Injustice League. She then appeared in Salvation Run, where she was sent to the Prison Planet after having been defeated and captured by the Suicide Squad.
In DC Universe #0 she was seen as the member of Libra's Secret Society of Super Villains. She is later seen as one of the villains sent to retrieve the "Get Out of Hell Free" card from the Secret Six, and ultimately helped deal the killing blow to the crazed supervillain Junior and the troubled vigilante known as the Tarantula.
A short time after this encounter with the Secret Six, Killer Frost appeared as one of the participants in a metahuman fighting tournament in Tokyo. She was defeated by Wonder Woman and Black Canary, who had disguised themselves as villains in order to take down the tournament from the inside.
The other two Killer Frosts are part of the New 52, and I won't deal with them here.
Both versions have shown the ability to absorb heat from external sources and transmute it into waves of cold. Using these powers, Killer Frost can create an ice-sheen across her entire body. She can then generate objects composed completely of ice, such as projectiles (ice daggers) and defensive walls. She can also instantly freeze animate matter through physical contact. In pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths appearances, she had the ability to make men fall under her control with a kiss.
Killer Frost appears in the animated series Justice League voiced by Jennifer Hale. Although it was never stated which version of Killer Frost she is, she's motivated by a base desire to kill people and does not seem to care who she serves so long as she is afforded the opportunity to do so. She joins Gorilla Grodd's Secret Society, relishing the chance to freeze Morgan Edge off-screen when the rest of the team is distracted examining the canisters containing the Secret Society's latest recruit Clayface. They were eventually defeated by the Justice League.
In the sequel series Justice League Unlimited, Killer Frost (again voiced by Jennifer Hale) rejoined Gorilla Grodd's Secret Society. She was sent with Devil Ray, Heat Wave and Giganta to a mountain to steal a Viking ship frozen in a glacier. The ship held the remains of a Viking prince that were believed to hold the key to invincibility. When an avalanche threatened a nearby lodge, she was forced by the Martian Manhunter to save the people there. Later, when the Secret Society mutinied on the way to Brainiac's former lair, she joined Grodd's faction but was defeated by Toyman. After the mutiny was defeated, Lex Luthor demanded "one good reason" why any of the rebellious faction should be allowed to live to which Killer Frost stepped forward and froze the half of the Secret Society that had opposed Lex Luthor. Satisfied, Lex Luthor replied "You've got a future" to Killer Frost. She subsequently appears as one of the Society members who survive Darkseid's resurrection and ends up fighting alongside the Justice League in their struggle against Darkseid's forces.
So, how's the figure? Really nicely done, although I think it's anybody's guess which version of Killer Frost this might be, since she doesn't all that closely resemble the comics incarnations all that much.
The figure has extremely pale blue, almost white skin. About the only you can tell it's not white is to put the figure up against a stark white background. Then you can see the blue tint.
The figure is an outstanding likeness of her animated counterpart, right down to the evil-looking eyes and the nasty grin on her face. Her eyes are fairly heavily shadowed, and the "whites" are a slightly darker blue than the skin, making her look that much meaner. She also has black lipstick.
Her hair is a darker blue, and very short-cropped. Interestingly, on the figure, this appears to have been molded as a separate piece and attached during assembly. I'm honestly not sure why this was done. Killer Frost doesn't have long hair, so it can't have been done in order to accommodate a longer hairstyle. There's really nothing about this hairstyle that couldn't have been molded as part of the head.
I find myself wondering if maybe there was a plan to do a "Firestorm" with Killer Frost, and mold her hair in transparent plastic, and they changed their minds when they realized this wasn't really true to the character. Mind you, the head still looks fine. No problems with it whatsoever. I just find it a little unusual that the head was made this way.
Killer Frost uses the standard female body molds common to the JLU line, painted in the appropriate colors. Her shoulders and arms are bare, and she's otherwise wearing a one-piece, dark blue costume that extends all the way down to her boots. The top has a certain jagged look to it, as if intended to represent icicles. Killer Frost also has gloves, of a standard length, that are the same shade of dark blue, with icicle-like cuffs in a slightly lighter shade of blue.
The costume is relatively simple, but it looks good on the character and on the figure. Overall, she's very impressive, and the only real surprise about her is that it took as long as it did to get Killer Frost into the JLU line, given several appearances in both the original Justice League and the sequel Justice League Unlimited series. But she's part of the collection now.
ANGLE MAN - Wow -- talk about your obscure super-villains. All I really knew about this guy was that he was a Wonder Woman enemy from years back, and that at least one incarnation of him had a rather unfortunate one-panel appearance during Crisis on Infinite Earths as a murder victim.
The poor guy doesn't even have his own online entry, instead appearing on a list of "lesser Wonder Woman villains". I mean, no respect, really. Fortunately, that list did have some background details.
Angle Man first appeared in Wonder Woman #62 (November/December 1953). Originally a clever schemer who "knew all the angles", the updated Angle Man possesses an object known as an Angler which can alter objects and locations according to the holder's wishes, sometimes defying gravity or through teleportation.
The Angle Man was created as a recurring foil for Wonder Woman during the period in which Robert Kanigher took over as writer of the comic book. In the late 1940s, as the backlog of Marston scripts dried up and his family stopped writing stories, and into the 1950s, Kanigher phased out most of the supporting cast, even, briefly, the Amazons of Paradise Island, presenting Wonder Woman in three short, disconnected stories per issue rather than three chapters of one full-length script. The short form left little room for characterization or elaborate plots and, for a while, typically featured Wonder Woman as a full-time crime fighter frequently targeted by the criminal underworld for elimination.
The Angle Man emerged after a series of tales in which Kanigher presented a desperate underworld turning to experts in designing elaborate schemes to defeat Wonder Woman. After one-shot tales featuring the other characters, Kanigher settled on the Angle Man, a character whose gimmick is designing schemes based on an angle.
Wonder Woman #62 featured "Angle" Andrews, and beginning in Wonder Woman #70 she was pitted against someone known simply as the Angle Man. The Silver Age adventures of Wonder Woman came to feature one-off villains and predicaments, and the Angle Man and the Duke of Deception were for a time the only recurring villains.
The Angle Man was dropped in the 1960s, as Wonder Woman shifted away from superheroics to feature espionage and urban adventures of the depowered Diana Prince, but he reemerged in the 1970s as a more traditional costumed supervillain, now equipped with a superpowered "angler" device.
Later, during Phil Jimenez' run on the Wonder Woman title, Angle Man was revamped into Angelo Bend, an Italian master gentleman thief for hire who uses his special Angler to escape authorities.
He was caught by Donna Troy while trying to steal an ancient artifact from a museum. Even though Donna, as Troia, was trying to stop the villain, Angle Man formed a bit of a crush on the Amazon. He became so enamored with her that he instinctively transported himself to Themyscira seeking Donna's help when he was savagely attacked by a Fury-possessed Barbara Ann Minerva. Later it was learned that he had been hired by Barbara, the previous Cheetah, who had lost her powers to Sebastian Ballesteros and needed the stolen artifacts to regain them.
He was also seen grieving at Donna Troy's funeral after she was briefly killed by a Superman robot.
So, how's the figure? Not bad at all, really, and actually has more unique parts that one would expect.
Of course, the figure has a unique head. He is wearing a black cowl, with a yellow angle shape running over the top of it, and an angled yellow visor with green lenses. Impressively, the lenses have a lighter green bit of reflection painted on them. Nice bit of extra detail there, that Mattel didn't really need to do, but I'm pleased they did.
The lower part of Angle Man's face in visible below the cowl. He has a decidedly smarmy grin on his face, and a pointy mustache and beard that makes him look like he's been taking hair grooming lessons from Marvel Comics' Batroc the Leaper.
Angle Man's costume is almost entirely black, and for the most part uses the standard male body molds for the JLU line. There is a large yellow triangle outlined on the front of the torso, and a yellow belt line, and yellow vertical lines running down the fronts of the legs. The cuffs of the gloves also have yellow outlines.
This is all quite impressive, and almost has a "Tron"-like look to them, but even more, because in my experience with action figures, it seems that the most difficult thing to do paintwise, is to paint yellow on black. Almost any other color, including white, is not as hard. There's something about yellow on black that is just very difficult. But Angle Man's costume lines are bold, bright, and neat.
And his right arm is unique. While the basic form of the arm is identical to the standard arms of a male JLU figure, the right hand is holding Angle Man's "Angler" device, which basically looks like a hollow yellow triangle.
And frankly, it makes Angle Man look like he's going to try to attack Wonder Woman with art supplies. I've got a triangle like this myself, except it's clear, not yellow. It's a very useful tool for drawing and keeping angles consistent.
As for articulation -- well, this is something that Justice League has never really been known for. The figures are all poseable at the heads, arms, and legs. There's a little plastic display base for Killer Frost, since female figures in this line are notorious for not standing up too well on their own.
Somehow, the Justice League line has managed to escape most of the criticism levied against other action figure lines that have such limited articulation. Maybe it's because, with rare exception, the Justice League line has always had this level of articulation. It's not like it has this articulation because it was cut back from a higher level, as is unfortunately the case with some other lines.
I think the main feature of the Justice League line has always been its considerable cast. I mean, I could point out any number of figures in this lengthy series that have never made it even into the DC Universe Classics line -- and Killer Frost and Angle Man would be two of them. At any rate, if you're getting this many cool figures based on a remarkably popular animation style that carried over through numerous Batman series, as well as Superman and, obviously, the Justice League, maybe you're not going to worry that much about articulation.
So, what's my final word? I'm pleased to have this set. Finding cool action figures almost anywhere these days is becoming increasingly difficult. I'm glad that, in some sense, the Justice League line is still around. The animated series was spectacular, and the figures are very cool. This set features a prominent hero, a prominent villain, and a not-so-prominent villain who'll probably never see another action figure version again. I call that a cool set, and I believe that any fan of the Justice League series will enjoy it.
The JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED three-pack featuring FIRESTORM, KILLER FROST, and ANGLE MAN definitely has my highest recommendation!