REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS RED ARROW
I am inclined to be of the opinion that the final wave of DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS figures to be issued at retail, Wave 20, is being used on several counts to turn out figures that most collectors would agree are long overdue, if only to get them out in time.
Of the entire assortment, I would say that four of these, half the assortment, fit into this category. These would include the All-Star Green Lantern -- finally bringing the modern-costume Green Lantern to a general retail release after turning up first as a preposterously scarce Toys "R" Us Exclusive and then as an equally elusive exclusive in a DC Universe/Masters of the Universe two-pack alongside Zodac; Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash, a glaringly obvious recolor (although they did give him a new headsculpt) and a prominent Flash villain; a proper-height Sinestro in his Sinestro Corps uniform, after a proper-height original costume Sinestro turned up in a two-pack a while back -- and this guy -- RED ARROW.
Red Arrow was originally known as Speedy, and was the sidekick of Green Arrow. The guy has had some serious hardships in his life, including after he adopted the Red Arrow identity by basically coming up with a red-tinted version of Oliver Queen's best-known costume. Roy Harper has been addicted to drugs, seen his young daughter die, and lost an arm. The very least we can do is give this guy a good action figure.
Let's consider, at greater length, the history of this character.
Roy Harper was known for over fifty years as Green Arrow's teenage sidekick Speedy. He first appeared alongside his mentor in More Fun Comics #73 (November 1941). The modern-day version, an early member of the Teen Titans, later assumed the identity of Arsenal and became a member of the Justice League of America under the guise of Red Arrow. After being maimed by supervillain Prometheus and the death of his daughter, Harper left the League and became Arsenal once more.
Roy Harper was raised by Brave Bow, a Navajo medicine chief after his father, a forest ranger, died in a forest fire. Under Brave Bow's tutelage, Roy became a remarkable archer, and, after Brave Bow's death, Roy was adopted by Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow, and became the Green Arrow's sidekick, "Speedy." It's my understanding that the nickname came because of Harper's tendency to be in a hurry and do everything quickly, not because of any super-speed powers -- although it's a wonder he didn't get teased more by Kid Flash about it.
Speedy later joined Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad, and Wonder Girl in the newly formed Teen Titans, a group originally formed from the various "teen sidekicks" active in DC comics at that time.
Speedy was initially a successful member and began dating Wonder Girl (Donna Troy). Some time later, however, Roy's fortunes took a turn for the worse. The Titans disbanded, Roy and Donna broke up, and then Green Arrow both lost his fortune and began neglecting Roy.
While the Green Arrow was away on a cross-country adventure with Green Lantern and Black Canary, Roy became addicted to heroin; the story played out in Green Lantern vol. 2, #85-86 in September and November 1971. Once Roy's secret was discovered, Green Arrow angrily punched him and then threw Roy out on the street. Green Lantern later found him and left him in the care of Black Canary, who stayed by his side while he went through withdrawal. Soon after, he had a confrontation with Green Arrow that caused the two of them to stop working together.
In addition to some brief adventures with later incarnations of the Titans in the 1980s, Roy also served as a government agent for a federal agency, and as a private investigator, and went on a single mission with the Suicide Squad.
While still helping the Teen Titans on occasional missions, Roy frequently worked as a counselor for various anti-drug programs. During this time, Roy established government contacts, and was soon hired by the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI, also known as Checkmate) as a drug enforcement agent.
Roy was given an assignment to go undercover and gain the trust of the villain Cheshire. The intention was to turn Cheshire over to the authorities, but the two fell in love and had an affair. Roy could not bring himself to turn her in, but he was concerned that his presence endangered Cheshire's life, so he left her, unaware that Cheshire was pregnant with his child.
Roy eventually learned that he was the father of Cheshire's daughter, Lian. He went on a mission with Nightwing to track down Cheshire and prevent her from assassinating a group of diplomats. Roy was captured by Cheshire and then freed by Nightwing, who also brought Roy's daughter. Cheshire then left Lian in Roy's care.
Roy later returned to the Titans, and was appointed leader by Sarge Steel. At this time, he adopted the new identity of Arsenal, now equipped with a vast array of high-tech weaponry. When the original members of this latest incarnation of Titans left the team, he gathered new members and led them until the team disbanded.
Soon, another team of Teen Titans emerged. This group consisted of a teenaged Atom (de-aged by events in Zero Hour) and new heroes Argent, Risk, Joto, and Prysm. The team was funded by Loren Jupiter, who had also funded a group of Titans during Roy's time on the team.
Jupiter gathered together the original Titans to combat the threat of his bitter, super-powered son Jarrod Jupiter, known as Haze. New and old Titans joined forces to defeat Haze – but at a price; Joto apparently lost his life, and Arsenal felt responsible for his death. Arsenal remained with this new group of Titans for a time, but eventually left the group before it disbanded.
Arsenal later came into conflict with Vandal Savage. Savage had discovered that both Roy and his daughter Lian were his descendants. Thus, their organs were suitable for him to harvest to prolong his life.
Roy was able to save his daughter from Savage. After this ordeal, Roy adopted a new look to reflect his Navajo heritage. Shortly after, the original five Titans decided to re-form the team. Arsenal served as a full-time member on the team, and resided at the new Titans Tower with his daughter, Lian.
Later, a mysterious conglomerate known as Optitron offered to sponsor the Titans and Young Justice after summoning them to San Francisco. Before any decisions could be made, a cybernetic girl from the future (known as Indigo) invaded the complex, and immediately engaged both teams in combat. With half the group out of commission, the remaining members tried to track down Indigo, but instead encountered a rogue Superman android, which had been activated. Caught by surprise, Lilith had her neck snapped by the Superman android, killing her instantly. Donna Troy tried valiantly to defeat the Superman android, but he released a deadly heat beam directly through her chest, killing her. Indigo arrived and shut down the Superman android, leaving Arsenal and Nightwing to mourn the fallen Troy. Shaken by these losses, Nightwing decided to officially end the Titans.
Roy saw an opportunity. He accepted Optitron's offer and set about forming a new team: the Outsiders. He began by buying a massive secret underground headquarters beneath New York City. Roy outfitted the shelter with state-of-the-art equipment and began recruiting members for the new team. He successfully coaxed the veteran Metamorpho, as well as newcomers Grace and Thunder into joining the team. He also decided to accept Indigo as a member. Even though she had been responsible for activating the Superman android, and ultimately for Lilith's and Troia's deaths, her memories were wiped clean and she convinced Roy that she wanted to atone for what she had done.
Indigo's presence would prove to be a major sticking point for Arsenal's last recruit: Nightwing. The Titans' former leader was completely unwilling to renew his involvement in a team after such a devastating loss. Arsenal argued that the Outsiders were the next logical step for them beyond the Titans, and that perhaps a team of strangers would operate more efficiently than a team with so many emotional attachments. Nightwing, while still reluctant, agreed to join and lead the Outsiders shortly after defeating Gorilla Grodd.
Arsenal was shot in the chest while attempting to stop Brother Blood from activating a global network of sleeper agents. He survived, but was sidelined for months. In the interim, he assigned the Huntress as his replacement. He was hesitant to resume active duty, feeling afraid of his own limitations, but returned with encouragement from Nightwing.
Not long after his recovery, the Outsiders took on a case which involved a child-slaver and molester named Tanner. One of Tanner's informants recognized Roy from years prior, and led Tanner to Roy's daughter, Lian. Lian's nanny was killed and the girl was branded with Tanner's mark. The Outsiders arrived just in time to save Lian and other children from being flown out of New York.
Oddly, his near-death from gunshot wounds saved his life when soon he met Deathstroke. The villain, Arsenal discovered, had been posing as Batman and feeding him information since the Outsiders began. Deathstroke and Arsenal fought, with Deathstroke intending to kill him, but when the mercenary discovered the bullet scars on Arsenal's chest, he figured Arsenal had suffered enough and gave him a "pass".
During Infinite Crisis, Arsenal served as leader of the Outsiders while raising Lian as a single father. He was among the heroes gathered to defend Metropolis from an invasion by the Secret Society of Super Villains. Following the Crisis, Roy attempted to keep the Outsiders running, but unfortunately they found themselves handling low-level criminals and making little difference in the world.
Roy was approached by Hal Jordan with membership in the new Justice League. While in battle, Hal referred to him as "Red Arrow" in an attempt to stop himself from revealing Roy's name. Roy accepted membership in the League and officially adopted the identity of Red Arrow, justifying it as a final "coming of age" and outgrowing his troubled relationship with his adoptive father, Oliver Queen. Roy began an intimate relationship with his teammate, Hawkgirl. However, the two ended their relationship and Roy left the Justice League following a disastrous confrontation with the Shadow Cabinet.
Following Bruce Wayne's apparent death in Final Crisis, Roy returned to the team after discovering that Hal Jordan and his splinter Justice League have been hunting down and torturing criminals. Roy and Green Arrow manage to settle their differences and work together, but things start to fall apart as Prometheus assaults Roy, cutting off his right arm with a poisoned, nanite-laced blade, and then has the Electrocutioner set off a device to destroy Star City, killing the young Lian.
Roy wakes several days later, adversely reacting to his current condition and Lian's death, taking an angrier stance to the world. The flesh-eating nanites still dormant in his stump prevent him from getting a permanent prosthesis. He is given a removable, enhanced artificial limb, built by Cyborg and Doctor Mid-Nite. The prosthetic limb is built to "work-around" the contaminated nerve endings, but increases his phantom pain. His pain and the survivor's guilt for Lian's death, bring Roy back to his former drug addiction, overdosing on painkillers and permanently locked in a state of delusional paranoia.
Haunted by visions of his deceased daughter and his former pusher, Roy regresses to his identity of Arsenal, lashing out against his former friends, blaming Green Arrow for having stolen his vengeance by killing Prometheus.
After a bitter meeting with Cheshire, Roy is unable to release the pent-up frustration for the loss of his arm and the death of his daughter. When Batman finds him delirious on the street, he's forced to bring him to a rehab home, with Black Canary's consent.
Roy manages to escape the center, and sets off to break into the jail where the Electrocutioner, the accomplice of Prometheus directly responsible for Lian, is held. Despite the intervention of Green Arrow, Roy cruelly butchers him with his knives, then burns away his house and all his possessions, becoming a dark, brooding vigilante enacting his brand of deadly justice on lowlifes and criminals.
After being approached by Cheshire to help murder Deathstroke, Roy apparently double crosses her and joins Deathstroke's new, villainous team of Titans, although Cheshire mentally congratulates him for his performance. Deathstroke reveals to them that his proceeding items were used to create a healing machine called "Methuselah" for his dying son, Jericho.
After healing Jericho, Deathstroke claims the machine can also resurrect the dead, offering Roy and Cheshire the chance to revive Lian. Cheshire accepts, but Roy refuses, finally realizing that he has just been punishing himself for his daughter's death all this time, and that Lian is in a better place. Joined by Tattooed Man and Cinder, Roy fights the rest of the Titans in an attempt to destroy the Methuselah Device. The power source of the Device, a metahuman named DJ Molecule, is freed, and Cinder sacrifices herself to destroy the device. Roy lets Deathstroke go after he helped to save Jericho. Cheshire, Tattooed Man and Osiris leave, and Roy and Jericho decide to form a new Titans team, to restore the legacy Deathstroke besmirched.
Like I said -- rough life this guy's had, more than most.
As to his powers and abilities, Roy Harper has no superhuman traits, but he is a marksman of incredible accuracy. He is extremely adept at the use of the bow and arrow, as well as a wide array of weaponry. He also has the ability to take virtually any object and use it in combat as an effective weapon. Harper is also a skilled hand-to-hand combatant and he possesses keen analytical and detective skills.After the loss of his right arm, Roy Harper received an advanced prosthetic, built by Vic Stone, designed to loop around his damaged nerve endings and restore his usual degree of hand-to-eye coordination, albeit with the price of a constant phantom limb pain.
As Speedy and Red Arrow, Roy uses a custom bow and trick arrows, mimicking his mentor Green Arrow. As Arsenal he's known to also carry guns and other kind of ranged weapons. His original Arsenal costumes were equipped with other exotic weaponry including a boomerang and electrified bolo.
So, how's the figure? Well, I'd say Roy Harper finally caught a break, because the figure is really outstanding!
Obviously, the figure uses the same body molds -- except for the head and belt -- that the Green Arrow figure from Wave 9 used several years ago. Ironically, there's a Green Arrow figure in Wave 20, but he's wearing the more loose-fitting, hooded costume that Oliver Queen has occasionally donned. It's a very well-designed figure, don't get me wrong, but I've just never been terribly fond of that particular look for the character.
As far as I'm concerned, the most iconic Emerald Archer is the one wearing the costume popularized by Neal Adams, and later taken up by Mike Grell. And it didn't hurt one bit, in my opinion, that this costume was also used, in admittedly a slightly simplified fashion, for Green Arrow's Mego figure back in the 1970's, and again for his Super Powers figure in the 1980's.
I was very pleased when Roy Harper took up a red version of this costume upon joining the Justice League, and took the name Red Arrow. It really seemed to be a sign of maturity, as well as hoping that he'd put the worst of his past behind him. Unfortunately, that part of it didn't work out terribly well, but it was impressive while it lasted, and to me, it seemed blindingly obvious that there should be a figure of him in this costume at some point.
Unlike a considerable percentage of the DC Universe Classics figures, which use a standard set of body molds with a few new parts here and there as mandated by the look of the character, the Green Arrow figure had a significant number of distinctive parts.
I've always appreciated the consistency of the DC Universe Classics line. It hasn't been perfect in this regard, but it's been a lot closer to a consistent look than any number of other action figure lines that I could name. Some people have a problem with that level of consistency. They want more individuality. To me, that direction leads to chaos, incompatible figures within the same line, and in the worst case scenarios, pre-posed figures, inconsistent articulation, odd facial appearances, and downright sloppiness.
Mattel's DC Universe Classics have done an excellent job of avoiding most of these problems, and I think one of the keys is the consistent design of the figures. Even when a particular character needs a large number of new parts, the figure is still designed within the established parameters of the line.
Mattel, and their sculpting and design team, the Four Horsemen, did an absolutely incredible job with Green Arrow. The figure had the distinctive tunic, with the laced-up section on the front fully sculpted and properly detailed, as well as the unusual gloves, also fully sculpted.
But, as any toy company executive will tell you, the single most expensive part of making a toy -- is cutting the molds. And if additional uses can be had from those molds, then the toy company is going to welcome the opportunity to do so -- or make one up if they can. Consider the "Haywire" series from Ben 10, easily one of the most individualistic lines of action figures in existence. These are recolored versions of established characters, that never appeared as such within the show, but Bandai did them to get some further use from the molds.
Now, admittedly, if Mattel tried that with DC Universe, there would be justified howls of outrage from the fans, and likely from DC. But some parts just couldn't be used again. There are some that could. Hawkman's wings could be readily used for both Hawkgirl and the Golden Age Hawkman, and I'm still holding out hope for Zauriel someday. But Killer Moth's wings? Those aren't terribly likely to turn up again.
The distinctive Green Arrow molds had ONE other conceivable use -- Red Arrow -- and here he is!
The figure really looks great. Of course, Red Arrow has a unique headsculpt. Roy Harper doesn't look all that much like Oliver Queen, and in addition to that, he's clean-shaven and chose not to wear a hat akin to Green Arrow's. The facesculpt is superb. It looks like Harper, a somewhat mature, but still youthful Harper, determined to be taken seriously as a grown-up super-hero now. There's something of a scowl under the red mask that covers a portion of his face and gives him the traditional "blank-eyed" look, and his expression is one of such determination that he's actually gritting his teeth.
By the way, it's quite something to stand Red Arrow alongside the Nightwing figure from this series. You can practically hear them saying, "Yeah, go ahead, call us Robin and Speedy -- call us kid sidekicks NOW!"
Red Arrow has reddish brown hair, which he has brushed back away from his forehead, and keeps neatly trimmed. It's been sculpted with great care, and has been superbly painted.
The uniform looks great. As with Green Arrow, Red Arrow uses several shades of red in his uniform. The tunic, gloves, and boots are a dark burgundy red, while the shirt underneath the tunic, the belt, and the leggings, are a more standard, straightforward red.
The belt is the other distinctive part of this figure, but only because, obviously, the belt buckle needed to read "R" for Red Arrow, as opposed to "G" for Green Arrow.
Red Arrow also has a quiver of arrows, which has been secured to his back and is not removable. But it's not any sort of obstruction to the figure's balance or his ability to be posed. The quiver is dark red, with a red strap that runs over the right shoulder and down the left side of the figure. The ends of the arrows are red, with dark red shafts that appear to have been hand-painted -- surprisingly neatly for something as meticulous as this. I'm glad it wasn't my job to do it.
Red Arrow has the expected level of articulation from a DC Universe Classics action figure, including the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.
The wrists are unusual because they feature a little extra movement, just as Green Arrow's did. Instead of just rotating, they also move back and forth, allowing him to better use his archery equipment. Fortunately, this additional articulation does not have an adverse effect on the look of the figure, very definitely unlike the abhorrent double-articulated elbows and knees which continue to turn up every so often, but thankfully not here.
As one might expect, Red Arrow does come with his archery equipment, including a bow with an arrow attached to it, and several additional arrows, which I highly recommend storing safely in a Ziploc bag -- maybe the same one you stored Green Arrow's arrows in. The bow and arrows are painted a dark red, so there's no risk of confusion.
So, what's my final word? I'm hugely impressed by this figure, and I'm very pleased that Mattel chose to make him. I believe he is somewhat overdue, and I also think it's a shame that Roy Harper no longer uses this identity, or at least, had given it up following the unfortunate events of "Justice League: Cry for Justice". I honestly have no idea what effect the "New DC 52" might have had on the character, nor do I care to find out.
In my opinion, Red Arrow is Roy Harper at his best. He might have been Speedy for longer, but Red Arrow was Roy Harper growing up, acknowledging his past, and looking for a positive future. And this is truly a superb action figure of the character at his best.
The DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of RED ARROW definitely has my highest recommendation!