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By Thomas Wheeler

It was reported, just before the 2008 Toy Fair event, that as of this summer, Justice League Unlimited will become an action figure line exclusive to Target.

Target has really been the only store to support the line, which has continued to be popular even though the animated series has unfortunately been off the air for some time. I was very pleased to hear that Mattel announced that they are now the holder of the master DC toy license, and would be able to expand the JLU line with new figures of characters that people have been demanding for some time. Definitely something to look forward to.

Personally, I am hopeful that this new arrangement between Mattel and Target on behalf of JLU results in some better and more timely distribution of product. Take, for example, the three-pack that I am about to review -- Green Lantern, Fire, and Ice. Although GL has certainly turned up plenty of times, Fire and Ice had their first appearances in this three-pack, and the two characters certainly have a decent measure of popularity from the somewhat more comedic days of Justlice League when it was under the direction of Keith Giffen. And both of them did appear, albeit briefly, in the JLU animated series.

This is an immensely cool three-pack of JLU figures, and I would like to take a look at them individually.

GREEN LANTERN - I'm going to spend the least amount of time here, because this figure has been available before. Even so, it's been a while since a fairly basic, straightforward Green Lantern has been offered. At least one single-carded Green Lantern recently was ratherornate in design. Nothing wrong with that, unless you want to stick to the basics.

The Green Lantern in the JLU Universe is not Hal Jordan, or even Kyle Rayner, although both do exist as characters. The main Green Lantern, the one that's a member of the Justice League, is John Stewart. I am certain this was done to promote a bit of racial diversity in the animated series. Stewart is African-American.

John Stewart was introduced into the DC Universe to provide a back-up for Hal Jordan to monitor Earth when Jordan was offworld or some such. Stewat was introduced during a time when the Green Lantern title was indulging in a fair bit of social commentary, and Stewart was portrayed as having a king-size chip on his shoulder. Over the years, he calmed down considerably. In the animated series, Stewart was portrayed as an ex-military man who saw his role as Green Lantern as that of a soldier, just a soldier on a cosmic scale.This personality was increasingly reflected in the comic-book John Stewart, who signed up with the comic-book Justice League about the same time as the airing of the animated series.

These days, John Stewart is one of four Green Lanterns assigned to the sector of the galaxy, as it is denoted by the Guardians of the Universe, that includes Earth. Apparently those little guys figure Earth has been enough of a trouble spot that it needs some extra green firepower. Who's to say they're wrong? So we get Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner, and Guy Gardner.

The Green Lantern figure included in this three pack has been released before, but not for a while, actually. GL has a fairly basic costume, even moreso than compared to other Green Lanterns.The outfit is almost entirely black, with a broad green area around the shoulders, and green sleeve cuffs and boots. These are colors used on most GL costumes, but this is a more distinctive design than some. The second finger of the right hand has a ring sculpted to it, and the Green Lantern insignia is imprinted on the chest.

This Green Lantern figure has the higher level of articuation that many of the core characters in the JLU toy line have been given. Along with the standard articulation at the head, arms, and legs, GL is also poseable at the elbows, waist, and knees.

The head is the bald-headed Stewart, with the mustache and the goatee. I have always referred to this as the "Sisko-ized" version of Green Lantern, in reference to Captain Benjamin Sisko, played by actor Avery Brooks, from Star Trek Deep Space Nine. With the start of Deep Space Nine's fourth season, Brooks shaved his head and grew a mustache and goatee. When the animated Justice League series became Justice League Unlimited, Green Lantern did the same thing, or was redesigned as such by the animators. I honestly don't know if this was an intentional tribute to the Star Trek character on the part of someone on the production staff, but really, there wasn't much of any other reason to do it.

Overall, it's an excellent Green Lantern figure. Although certainly not as uncommon as Fire and Ice, it's been a while since a fairly basic Green Lantern has been available, so he's a good addition to the set.

FIRE - Interestingly, had her debut in DC comics in 1979, in a title based on the Super Friends animated series! She was created by E. Nelson Bridwell and Ramona Fradon. Her first appearance in the DC Universe canon was Infinity, Inc. #32, in 1986.

In her Super Friends appearance, Beatriz da Costa had originally been bequeathed with her powers due to Brazilian mysticism and was the President of Wayne Enterprises' Brazilian Branch. She possessed an array of abilities which included the power to exhale vast quantities of mystical green fire. She could also fly, alter her clothing at will, and displayed a limited capacity to project hallucinations. At this point in time she was known as Green Fury.

Green Fury became a member of the Global Guardians when Superman, recruited by Doctor Mist, asks for assistance in locating one of many ancient artifacts that are being pursued by a powerful group of evil mystics. They battle a wizard called 'El Dorado' in an ancient, overgrown city deep in the jungle. The two face off against 'spirit jaguars' and seemingly lose the artifact, a crown, to the wizard. Da Costa then assists Superman and other Guardians in battling the wizards El Dorado included, on Easter Island. The heroes catch a break when it's learned Superman had faked the artifacts with super-speed. This prevents the rise to power of the entity the wizards followed, Thaumar Dhai. Though not as powerful as planned, Dhai was still a threat. Green Fury's mystical based powers were essential in destroying him.

After the Crisis on Infinite Earths, her history was altered so that she had followed an unusual career path. Renamed Beatriz Bonilla da Costa, she started as an amateur model on the beaches of Rio, then becoming a showgirl and stage performer before finding herself serving as a top secret agent for Brazilian government's Espiões Nacionais. In the course of one of her missions, Beatriz was trapped in a pyroplasmic explosion that endowed her with the unusual power of being able to exhale an eight- inch burst of fire. She assumed the identity of the Green Fury then soon changed it again to Green Flame. She joined the international superhero team the Global Guardians, of which she was a long-standing, loyal member.

Shortly after changing her name to Green Flame, the Guardians' UN funding was withdrawn in the wake of the formation the Justice League International. Miss da Costa convinced her teammate and best friend Icemaiden into joining her to apply for JLI membership. Remarkably, in the wake of Black Canary's resignation and the abduction of several members, the short-handed JLI took them on. (Justice League International #14) Eventually, she once again changed her heroic name, this time to Fire in affinity with Icemaiden's shortening of her name to simply Ice.

Fire always assumed a big-sister role with Ice, watching out for her and her interactions with the "real" world. For example, Fire stepped in when Ice did not realize she was being stalked by a delusional fan. However, Fire herself makes mistakes, such as torching the cash she'd just saved while foiling a bank robbery.

Beatriz remained with the JLI for the rest of its existence -- in fact she served the longest tenure of any JLI member. She also took up modelling and agreed to do a swimsuit calendar. (Ibid #67) She soon learned that Booster Gold had bankrolled the calendar, and she burned all the copies. (Ibid #71) During this time she was also trained in the arts of battle by Big Barda and enjoyed flirting with the diminutive Oberon.

In the pages of Checkmate #16, after years of anguish and grief over the loss of her friend and ally Ice, Fire is at last reunited with her after the long-deceased hero is miraculously resurrected in the pages of Birds of Prey.

Explaining Fire's powers is -- trickier than most. The original Green Fury had magical flame breath powers due to Brazilian mysticism. She could control her flame breath to allow her to fly and land like a rocket. Green Fury was able to mystically alter her clothing when needed and change the colour of her eyes from green to black, and vice-versa. Green Fury was able to create and cast illusions with her 'dazzle power', fire blasts with her flame with white-hot flame or super-cold freezing flame. Her green flame had the magical ability to heal and repair her costume after a battle. Beatriz was also trained by Batman in hand-to-hand combat. Due to the events of the Crisis on Infinite Earths Green Fury never had any of these magical powers and had a new revised origin.

Originally Beatriz's only power, gained from a saturation by an organic energy source called Pyroplasm, was the ability to breathe a jet of green flame from her mouth (this accident also permanently dyed her hair green as well).

During the Invasion cross-over event, the alien Dominators set off a "metagene bomb" in the upper atmosphere which affected almost all super-powered DC characters and, after a period of illness, Fire found her powers greatly magnified as an after-effect. The "new" Fire was now able to completely turn into a being of green flame, in which form she could fly and throw devastating blasts, extremely similar to the Human Torch
-- just green. Solid objects could pass completely through her form without causing injury. Unfortunately, it took her some time to come to terms with her increased powers, and she often "flamed on" involuntarily when stressed or angry (and sometimes still does), a distressingly common event for a character depicted as having a tendency towards passionate outbursts.

As to the figure, she's a superb likeness of the character as she appeared in the Justice League Unlimited series, which in and of itself presented a very effective representation of the character from the comics, making an adaptation only to match the animated style of the show.

Fire is dressed in a medium green halter top and green leggings, that have a lighter green circular design around the waist, not unlike a belt. The figure uses the standard female body molds that have been used for quite a few figures in this line.

The headsculpt is excellent. The face sculpt is very nicely done. It's sadly not impossible for Mattel to botch this. I still haven't gotten over "light-bulb head" Vixen. But Fire is superb. The hair was sculpted as a separate piece, and pretty much needed to be. Fire has very long, flowing locks, very nicely styled. Hey, she has been a model. It probably wasn't that easy to do this and make it look good, but Mattel's sculptors certainly succeeded. Her hair has been appropriately molded in a pale green. The figure even has earrings.

The figure, as with most Justice League Unlimited figures, has rather limited articulation, poseable at the head, arms, and legs. And honestly, the head doesn't move that well, given the long hair, which was not really molded from a flexible plastic. Mattel has taken an increasing amount of heat (no Fire pun intended) in some circles regarding the limited articulation of their JLU figures. I would counter that by saying -- you know what you're buying. The figures are not hidden in the package. And really, the emphasis of this line at this point is not a figure as poseable as a Marvel Legends. It's to turn out animated-style figures of as many DC characters as possible. And it's doing a pretty decent job of that.

Fire does have a little trouble standing up on her own, but both she and Ice come with display stands. It's not uncommon for the female figures in the JLU line to have a little trouble standing up on their own.

Overall, this is really a superb figure, of a fairly well-known character that was a vital part of the Justice League during some of their more -- peculiar days. I'm glad she finally got the action figure treatment.

ICE - Ice (Real name Tora Olafsdotter) was created by Keith Giffen, J. M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire; she first appeared in Justice League International #12

Ice is a separate character from Icemaiden, although the two are similar in appearance, group affiliation and powers. When Icemaiden first appeared, she had blue skin, pointy ears and was named Sigrid Nansen. When the character joined Justice League International, the comic book creators believed that her real name had never been given but were mistaken; it was revealed in the Global Guardians entry in Who's Who in the DC Universe.

After Ice was killed, the original Icemaiden (Sigrid Nansen) joined the Justice League. A backstory revealed that she was the first Icemaiden, and quit the Global Guardians when Tora appeared. Nothing like a few continuity glitches to keep things interesting, is there?

The princess of an isolated tribe of magic-wielding Norsemen, Tora Olafsdotter has the natural ability to create and manipulate ice. She joined the Global Guardians as Norway's member (replacing Icemaiden Sigrid Nansen) after they promised to protect her people, but after the Guardians' UN funding was withdrawn in the wake of the Justice League's reformation as the Justice League International, her friend Green Flame (later Fire) talked her into walking up to a JLI embassy and asking for a job. In the wake of Black Canary's resignation and the abduction of several members, the short-handed JLI took them on.

Ice's personality was a mix of girl-next-door wholesomeness and innocent-abroad naiveté, which served as a contrast to the more impulsive traits of her friend and teammate Fire. The two changed their names from Green Flame and Icemaiden to Fire and Ice.

Ice served with the Justice League International for years (remaining with the American branch even after a European branch was opened), occasionally dated Green Lantern Guy Gardner, and expressed an open crush (albeit unrequited) on Superman after he joined the team. Ice was present at Superman's death (in Superman #75). She was one of the few Justice Leagers still standing after Doomsday, Superman's killer, had mauled the team.

She was killed by the Overmaster while under his mental influence. Mark Waid, who wrote those issues, has admitted that the death was a mistake.

Before her death, Ice displayed enhanced powers. This was after a battle with her brother, who had tried to conquer Ice's homeland. But, you know, hardly anybody ever really dies in the comics. At least one DC writer specifically stated that he felt Ice's death was a mistake.

She continued to have a presence in DC Comics, with several "ghost appearances". In Showcase '96 #7, Fire and Cruiser are involved in an accident which leaves them cold, tired and snowbound. They swap their life stories, and as she begins to drift into unconsciousness, which would be fatal following her concussion, Fire sees a vision of her late friend Ice, who helps her decide to live. It is not revealed if Ice was a ghost or a figment of Fire's imagination, but Fire awoke to a warm burning fire and she and Cruiser had traded sitting positions.

Ice's spirit once again appears in JLA Annual #2. She and several other deceased JLA members are resurrected by Felix Faust. In the end, she sacrifices herself again to save the JLA from his dark magic, and recites the same final words she spoke when killed by the Overmaster.

Either the spirit or an illusion of Ice appeared in I Can't Believe It's Not The Justice League, in which she was (possibly mistakenly) damned to Hell or a dimension similar to Hell. After Fire and Guy Gardner negotiate her release, Fire looks behind to see that Ice is following while they leave, which violates Hell's Orpheus clause, causing Ice's spirit to vanish. Together Guy Gardner and Fire mourned the again-lost Ice, even though they had never been entirely certain that this manifestation was really her. It is implied that Ice vanished to Valhalla.

Ice finally returned for real sometime later in the pages of Birds of Prey. While on mission in Azerbaijan, Barbara Gordon's Birds of Prey discover Ice unconscious within a Rocket Red exosuit which they wrest from the possession of an underworld figure, Kerimov. Kerimov has hired the Secret Six to transport the exosuit, and the Birds of Prey and Secret Six would come to blows after Big Barda and Huntress capture it. Kerimov plans to use the resurrection of a goddess to manipulate the Russian people by playing on their superstitions about ice princesses, and to use her great power to make himself a powerful ruler.

Tora, awakened by a member of the team, is enraged and unleashes her wrath upon both the Birds of Prey and Catman's Secret Six: she seeks to avenge her own murder. Huntress' mention of Guy Gardner, in addition to a hard slap, brings Ice back to her senses, while Deadshot dispatches Kerimov. Ice leaves the country in the company of the Birds of Prey.

She meets up with Fire at a facility belonging to the United Nations-affiliated intelligence service Checkmate, where they talk about old times and catch up on current ones.

Although Ice is in the care of Fire and Checkmate, she has ventured out on occasion, helping Earth's heroes during the Sinestro Corps War. In the aftermath of the war, she is reunited with former love Guy Gardner. Tora asks for time to figure out what her resurrection means before entering into a relationship. Guy agrees, proposing that they simply begin the relationship anew-- which is surprisingly sensitive for a character not exactly known for his sensitivity.

As to her powers, in addition to being an above-average hand-to-hand combatant, Ice can, at will, project in various forms quantities of ice and snow through her hands just enough to down an opponent. She can create platforms of ice upon which she can skate.

The figure is another superb piece of work. I don't know who Mattel had sculpt the heads for Fire and Ice, but whoever did so deserves a nice bonus, and whatever encouragement necessary to keep them working on the JLU line. Ice has a very nicely sculpted face, and short white hair. No need for a separate piece here, and no real hindrance to articulation.

Ice's costume, like Fire's, is an excellent animated version of the comic book character's outfit. Ice is dressed in a blue and white uniform that is predominantly blue around the top, with white coming up on one half of each of her legs, tapering off at the center. Her boots appear to be white at the top, and blue near the foot. The costume is sleeveless, and she is wearing high white gloves. There is a cut-out area in the center of the blue area that looks like stylized icicles.

About the only thing missing from the costume, which I'm not even sure the animated version had since she barely had cameos and never spoke, so I'm making this comparison by the comics version of the character, is a cut-off white tank-top shirt that she wore over the costume. This is not a complaint. The figure looks perfectly fine as is.

Ice obviously uses the same basic female body mold as many other female characters in the JLU line, and so the articulation is limited to the head, arms, and legs. Interestingly, although she does come with a display base, she doesn't have as much trouble standing up on her own as Fire. I think Fire's bulky hair makes her top-heavy and difficult to balance.

On the whole, this is really a superb Ice figure, a long overdue character for the Justice League Unlimited figure line, and certainly a good accompanying piece for Fire.

Let us hope that the reports of Mattel planning to ship more of the harder-to-find individual figures and three-packs proves to be accurate. This is a set that anyone who enjoys the Justice League Unlimited collection would want to add to theirs. I have seen it all of ONCE, in person in a store, and obviously I snagged it the second I saw it. Haven't seen it since, either.

It's not impossible to find, but neither is it easy. However, if you're any sort of Justice League Unlimited fan, you'll want it. The Justice League Unlimited GREEN LANTERN/FIRE/ICE three-pack definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!