REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS ADAM STRANGE & STARFIRE TWO-PACK
The online Web Store, MattyCollector.Com, has among its offerings several DC Universe Classics exclusives. One of these is a two-pack containing ADAM STRANGE and STARFIRE.
I was initially reluctant to pick up this set because of quality control issues that Mattel was having at the time. And then, ultimately, the set ran out. However, much to my surprise the set was restocked. Hoping that this was an entirely new production run, that would not have any quality control issues, I decided to order the set.
I'll be honest here -- regardless of the toy line or the company that makes it, I am always a little hesitant to purchase toys online. There are some things I don't mind buying online. I order my comic books online. I don't have a problem with that. I don't object to buying books or DVD's online. Unless the item gets run over by the delivery truck, there's not much way you're going to get a defective or damaged book or DVD from an online order.
But as nit-picky as I tend to be about the assembly and paintwork of action figures, which I think I am entirely entitled to be, I am rather reluctant to order toys online unless there's no other way to obtain that toy. A given online store, whether it's a company store like MattyCollector.Com, or a general online toy store, they are not going to show you the PRECISE toy you're getting. Oh, there will be a photograph there of "the" product, but you'll be receiving one from their inventory supply. And it's not likely the same one that posed for the picture.
So, in my opinion, you're taking a bit of a chance. But, if you want the toy badly enough, there's not much way around that. And, in fairness, there's any number of toy lines and toy products out there that wouldn't likely see the light of day if they WEREN'T offered online directly through the company. The last time Masters of the Universe was at retail, it unfortunately didn't go very well. I don't think we'd be seeing the amazing Masters of the Universe Classics line if Mattel didn't take it upon themselves to sell it directly to collectors.
As to this two-pack of DC Universe Classics, while the line available at retail is certainly not above offering some obscure characters, I suspect it's a little debatable as to whether either Adam Strange or Starfire would've made it in, at least as early as they did. So, if I have to order them online, and then cross my fingers for the best possible results.
Fortunately, I got a couple of really impressive, well-made, well- detailed, properly assembled figures here. Insert deep sigh of relief and satisfaction for the results.
Unless you've been following DC Comics pretty closely in the past few years, a two-pack with Adam Strange and Starfire is going to sound a little -- well -- strange. Adam Strange is a sci-fi character developed by DC in the late 1950's. Starfire started out as a member of the New Teen Titans in 1980. They don't seem to have a lot in common. However, as a result of events surrounding the Countdown to the Final Crisis, and more to the point in a mini-series titled Countdown to Adventure, Adam Strange and Starfire, along with Animal Man, find themselves allied in a new star-spanning adventure. So there is a rationale for putting the two of them in a two-pack together. (There's no present indication that Mattel plans a DC Universe Classics figure of Animal Man, although I think he's up for DC Infinite Heroes, which already has Adam Strange and Starfire in it.)
So, let's consider these two characters individually, starting with...
ADAM STRANGE was created by writer Gardner Fox and artist Mike Sekowsky. He first appeared in Showcase #17 (November 1958).
Strange is an archeologist suddenly teleported from Peru, Earth to fictional planet Rann through the "Zeta Beam". Called on to protect the planet from extraterrestrial threats using high-tech weaponry, Strange grew to care for the planet and its inhabitants, especially a young woman named Alanna. Independently wealthy, he traveled Earth, intercepting the regular patterns of the Zeta Beam to defend Rann and be with Alanna. Strange's adventures were published in several anthology series in the 1950s and 60s and, although never a headlining character, he has had a consistent presence in the DC Universe.
One award-winning story resulted from a continuity gaffe in the Justice League of America comic book, in which the Flash mentions Adam Strange as a possible new member for the Justice League, a group he had not met and who could not have heard of him, as all his heroics took place on Rann. When a letter to the editor reported this, Gardner Fox wrote a story showing how the JLA came to Rann and how Adam Strange got them out of the traps that the Justice League's alien enemy Kanjar Ro had set for them there.
A 2004 eight-issue limited series, "Planet Heist", updated Adam Strange's appearance and abilities by giving him a new costume, a spacesuit that allows for interstellar travel. In the series, Adam was prepared to relocate to Rann permanently when he was informed that the planet was destroyed and that he was blamed for its destruction. In fact, Sardath transported Rann to another dimension to save the planet from the cosmic being, Starbreaker, intent on destroying the planet. Adam, with the help of the Omega Men and the Darkstars, among others, saved Rann and defeated the evil being.
More recently, Adam Strange was, not surprisingly, involved in the Rann-Thanagar war. When Rann was moved, its orbit was believed to have pushed the planet Thanagar closer to its sun, destroying much of the surface (it was later discovered that the actions of Superboy-Prime moved Thanagar). Many Thanagarians were relocated to Rann, but enmity between the two races resulted in a war, depicted in Rann-Thanagar War, a six- issue precursor to DC's Infinite Crisis.
Published by DC Comics in 2005, the series concerns a war between the planets Rann and Thanagar, and features Adam Strange, the Green Lantern Corps, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, L.E.G.I.O.N., and Captain Comet, along with other DC space adventurers. The series was followed in early 2006 with the one-shot "Rann-Thanager War: Infinite Crisis Special".
Rann's new location caused the orbit of Thanagar to become unstable, and the planet crashed into the system's sun. The surviving Thanagarians and Rannians now all live on Rann, and tensions are high between the two groups, as each blames the other for their predicament.
Aware that war could erupt at any time, Strange goes to Earth to recruit the help of Hawkman and Hawkgirl, who have a connection to Thanagar, in preventing a war. Meanwhile, Green Lanterns Kilowog and Kyle Rayner are sent on a covert mission to Rann, albeit under orders by the Guardians of the Universe not to interfere.
When Strange and the Hawks arrive on Rann, they are shocked to see that the war has already begun. They form a team, including the Thanagarian Hawkwoman and the Tamaranean Blackfire. More and more planets are drawn into the war as Rann and Thanagar each call on their respective allies. Seeing a chance to seize power, Blackfire betrays the group, killing Hawkwoman in the process. It becomes clear that all factions have a common enemy: Onimar Synn. With the help of Tigorr of the Omega Men and Captain Comet, Strange's team manages to cut Synn into seven pieces, and each piece is inserted into a separate star to prevent him from reforming.
At the end of the series, the assorted forces of Rann and Thanagar are faced with a fracture in space that resembles those that were seen during the Crisis on Infinite Earths. The story continues in the one-shot Rann/Thanagar War: Infinite Crisis Special, the rift begins endangering the lives of those in the star system by sending out destructive energy waves. Donna Troy's assembled heroes are working to keep the peace between the two warring forces, when Adam Strange receives a message from Tigorr of the Omega Men. He leads Strange, along with Hawkman and Hawkgirl, to a stray Thanagarian surveillance satellite, which has documented footage of Superboy-Prime forcing Rann and Thanagar to collide, and thus, go to war.
Ultimately, on the barren surface of Thanagar, Adam Strange finds evidence to present to all of the warring groups: handprints deep within an enormous crater, created by Superboy Prime's interference. The combined forces of L.E.G.I.O.N., Thanagar, Rann and New Cronus make a full assault on the force behind the rift.
Adam is also featured as one of the main characters in DC's weekly event 52. Adam is stranded on a paradise-like planet with Animal Man and Starfire. As a result of a teleportation accident involving the zeta beam, he has lost both of his eyes but in spite of his injuries, he is trying to fix a damaged spaceship so that they may return home. After being attacked by Devilance the Pursuer, they eventually escape having realized that the entire planet is a trap.
Encountered by Devilance again, they're saved by the intervention of Lobo.They are soon also joined by Ekron, a member of the Green Lantern Corps. This ragtag team makes a stand against the villainess Lady Styx, whose legions are ravaging planets across the galaxy. With Styx presumably defeated and Animal Man seemingly killed, Strange and Starfire continue their journey back to Earth and Rann, still pursued by angry Lady Styx followers. With Starfire wounded in one of such battles, and their ship breaking apart and malfunctioning, Adam is forced to fly blindly in open space. When he's about to crash into a sun, he is saved by Mogo and a rookie Green Lantern. Brought to Rann, Strange is equipped with new eyes, cloned by Aleea and genetically engineered to grant him vision of the entire electromagnetic spectrum.
So, how's the figure? Really cool, actually. It's clearly the "updated uniform" version. Adam Strange used to wear what amounted to a red super- hero-type jumpsuit with two white straps criss-crossing the chest, keeping his jet pack in place, and his helmet was fairly straightforward and tight-fitting.
The revised costume respects the basics of the original, while giving it a more up-to-date and futuristic feel. This costume still consists of a red jumpsuit, but the chest straps have been replaced by a thick, seemingly armored white chestplate and backplate, to which Adam Strange's rocket pack is attached, as well as a small holster containing, presumably, some sort of ray gun.
The red costume isn't just red anymore, either. There is a remarkably ornate series of white stripes running up the sides of the legs, and the arms from the bicep to wrist are now white. There's also no shortage of yellow trim on the costume, including boots, gloves, and striping on the arms. Really, this a remarkably ornate costume, the details of which have been very nicely reproduced on the figure, and which can't have been easy.
Adam Strange's costume has a high, white collar, with two gold stars on it. This has been attached to the figure very effectively. His helmet is mostly red, with a thick white area around the face, gold wings on the top of the white area, and a silver fin.
Really, the entire costume is very respectful to Adam Strange's original look, while bringing the overall design very nicely into the 21st century. I am abundantly impressed.
And the figure is cool, too. It can't have been easy to get some of the striping on the legs up past the waist. You've got to deal with the upper leg articulation, essentially three points right there, and the waist and mid-torso articulation, which is another three points. Mattel could have taken a shortcut, I'm sure, but they didn't, and they really did a good job getting it all to line up very nicely.
The detailing on the arms and boots is almost as ornate. I can see how a figure like this could have easily been messed up in the paint work, but I have no complaints worth raising a ruckus about. The worst thing I can say about this figure is that they trimmed the plastic seam on one side of his helmet a little too close for comfort, and even that isn't a big deal.
Adam Strange's face has also been very neatly painted. Here's something that probably could have been easily messed up with a certain carelessness, but wasn't. The flesh-tone was laid down very well, And the detailing on the eyes is nothing short of remarkable, including the whites of the eyes, blue irises, black pupils, little white reflection points, and black lines over the eyes. It always amazes me that they can get this level of detail on such small eyes.
Of course, the figure is superbly well articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. And I am happy to report, he is entirely properly assembled. No switched parts or anything, as has occasionally plagued this line.
Now, let's consider the other figure in this two-pack...
STARFIRE: debuted in DC Comics Presents #26 (October 1980), a prelude to the New Teen Titans series which debuted in 1980, and was created by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez .
Koriand'r is a princess of the planet Tamaran in the fictional Vegan system, and was in line to rule the planet as Queen. Komand'r ("commander", also known as Blackfire), her older sister, developed a bitter rivalry with her after suffering a disease in infancy that robbed her of the ability to harness solar energy to allow her to fly, and by extension, her right to the throne. This rivalry continued and intensified when the siblings were sent for warrior training with the Warlords of Okaara. Things came to a head during a sparring exercise in which Komand'r attempted to kill her sister. As a result, Komand'r was expelled and she swore vengeance.
That revenge came in a plot where Komand'r betrayed her planet by supplying detailed information about Tamaran's defenses to their enemies, the Citadel. They conquered Tamaran with ease, and the surrender conditions included the enslavement of Koriand'r, who was never permitted to return, since that would mean the Citadel would devastate the planet for abrogating the treaty. To Kory's horror, she learned that Komand'r was her master; Koriand'r's older sister made the most of her sibling's bondage with years of horrific servitude and torture. When Koriand'r killed one of her captors, Komand'r decided to execute her as punishment, but the sisters were attacked and captured by the Psions. Psions, a group of sadistic alien scientists, performed a deadly experiment on both sisters to see how much energy their Tamaranean bodies could absorb before exploding from the overload. During the procedure, Komand'r's forces attacked the Psion ship to retrieve her. While the Psions were distracted, Kory broke free using her starbolts - destructive blasts of solar energy - which were a result of the experimentation. Against her better judgment, she decided to free Komand'r, who was still absorbing energy. However, far from grateful, Komand'r struck her sister down with the same, but more intense, power, and had her restrained for later execution.
Kory escaped by seducing one of the guards and stole a spacecraft to flee to the nearest planet, Earth, where she met the first Robin and his compatriots; she joined them in forming the Teen Titans. She became a charter member of this team and remained a member for years; during this time she was frequently romantically involved with Robin.
Starfire has served as mentor/teacher to the latest roster of Titans. She joined the Outsiders in Fall 2005. During Infinite Crisis, Starfire joined Donna's New Cronus Team that went to investigate a hole in the universe that was found during the Rann-Thanagar War. They arrived at the re-set center of the universe and with the help of an assorted heroes aided in the defeat of Alexander Luthor, who was attempting to re-create the multiverse and build a perfect Earth from it. She is reported missing at the end of the crisis.
In "52", Starfire is shown to be stranded on a paradise-like planet with Animal Man and Adam Strange. In the same issue, it was revealed that energy ripples caused by Alexander Luthor Jr. altered the Zeta Ray Beams the space heroes were going to use to return home, resulting in their presence on the mysterious planet.
Starfire has continued to be involved in various adventures in the DC Universe, not only alongside Adam Strange, but with her frequent companions in the Titans.
As to her powers and abilities, like all Tamaraneans, Starfire's alien physiology constantly absorbs ultraviolet radiation and converts it to energy for flight, which leaves a distinctive energy contrail behind, looking as if it is coming directly from her hair. The solar absorption experiments performed on her by the alien Psions granted her the ability to channel and project that same energy into destructive blasts called "starbolts". Starfire can also release a tremendous amount of stored energy as a powerful omni-directional explosive burst, many times more powerful than her standard blasts. The released energy leaves her in a weakened state. Starfire possesses superhuman strength - even though Starfire is not as strong as Wonder Woman or Supergirl, the uppermost level of her strength is not known as yet, but it is much greater than that of normal human beings.
Starfire is also capable of assimilating other languages through physical contact with another person. When she attempts to do so with males, she usually kisses them because it is more fun for her. She is also extremely proficient in armed and unarmed combat, having been trained in those arts by the Warlords of Okaara.
So, how's the figure? Well-- in and of itself, it's a very capable, generally excellent likeness of the character. It has just one major problem -- it's distinctly too short.
This isn't the first time this has happened in the DC Universe Classics line. Just ask Sinestro.
In this case, though, I think it's a result of Starfire using a lot of the same body parts as Harley Quinn, a DC Universe Classics figure from Series 2. Harley is not exactly known for being tall. On the one hand, it occurred to me that Starfire might have been better served using some of the body parts from Wonder Woman, but then it occurred to me that since I didn't purchase this two-pack during its initial run, which was fairly early on, the Wonder Woman parts might not have existed at that point in time. I'd have to determine the production times for both figures to learn that, and I don't really have any way of doing that.
I can't blame Mattel for wanting to re-use body parts multiple times. There's two good reasons for doing so. In the first place, molds are the single most expensive part of toy making. You want to get the most use out of them that you can. Secondly, in the case of the DC Universe Classics line, especially with the male characters (which admittedly Starfire distinctly is not), it not only works to use the same basic set of body molds as often as possible, but it looks god, since it's a good design, and lends a certain consistency to the line that I, for one, sincerely appreciate.
And that's not to say that Starfire doesn't have some distinctive parts of her own. The ornate collar of her costume, the lower torso piece, the gauntlets, and certainly her head are unique. Her hands are also positioned differently than Harley Quinn's, so those are unique as well.
But, she still comes up a bit short. According to a character profile of Starfire in a DC Comics trade paperback featuring the Teen Titans, a group Starfire has obviously been associated with multiple times, Starfire's official listed height is 6' 4". The figure is nowhere near that, proportionately. Had Mattel done something like reworked the Wonder Woman body molds (admittedly, this would have required the making of more new molds), it would've worked out better, heightwise.
This is one instance where the DC Infinite Heroes version comes out ahead. Starfire has been made a part of that line, as well, and is a more appropriate height, relative to the scale of the figures, of course. Another area where the Infinite Heroes version comes out as being somewhat superior is with regard to her hair and head. That's going to take a little explanation.
Now, the DC Infinite Heroes Starfire has a pretty full head of hair, and actually does a little better than the DC Universe Classics version. The DCUC Starfire does a decent job here. Certainly the hair is long, reasonably full, and EXTREMELY well-detailed. But I do find myself wondering just a bit if the sculpting team of the Four Horsemen were trying for a somewhat more "plausible" or "realistic" look for Starfire, rather than a comics accurate one. Either that, or Mattel did a calculation on how much plastic it would take to do Starfire's full head of hair, and told the Horsemen to give her a trim.
There's one other issue. The Infinite Heroes Starfire has a head that was basically molded in two parts -- the face and the hair, each in its appropriate color. The DC Universe Classics Starfire molded the entire head as two pieces, but PAINTED the face the golden orange that is Starfire's natural skin color. I wouldn't have a problem with this if it weren't for the fact that the entire rest of the figure is molded in her skin tone. I honestly have no idea if the molded color of Starfire's head was done in skin color, in which case the paint was superfluous, or in the hair color, in which case that was a pretty silly decision on someone's part.
Now yes, it's a good match between the paint and the plastic. And I'm probably being overly nit-picky here -- wouldn't be the first time -- but I can tell the difference between unpainted and painted plastic, and it shows. Not unacceptably, but it shows. This is one occasion where the Universe Classics figure could have learned a few things from her smaller Infinite Heroes counterpart.
Okay, enough gripes. This is otherwise a really nicely done figure. The face is very neatly painted, and that includes the eyebrows, lips, and eyes. Starfire, like all Tamaraneans, has unusual eyes, in that there is no visible pupil or iris. Her eyes are just bright green, seemingly blank, with eyelashes outlining them. These have been very neatly done.
The hair, while perhaps not as long or full as it should be, is an amazing sculpting job that must have taken somebody quite a length of time, and I don't even want to think about what it took to design a mold for this head that would allow for easy extraction.
As to her outfit -- what there is of it -- Starfire has gone through a number of costume changes over the years, everything from a metal swimsuit that didn't have much more material to it than some of the stuff you see on the average beach during spring break, to a more fully armored outfit. But one thing has tended to be consistent -- the costumes have tended to be metallic purple.
Starfire's costume on this figure is a fairly recent one, and leans more towards the "swimsuit" level. There is an ornate collar, two wide strips running down the front leading to bikini-like shorts, gauntlets around her wrist, and high boots. The metallic effect has been nicely added to the plastic and paint (and here the DC Universe Classics figure is well ahead of the Infinite Heroes version, which didn't pull off the metallic finish anywhere near as well), and the end result is very effectively done, and looks very much like Starfire.
Starfire is very well articulated. She is fully poseable at the head (although the hair gets in the way a little), arms, upper-arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. For some reason she does have a bit of a balance problem. Doesn't always want to stand up on her own. I'm inclined to blame the hair, so maybe it's just as well that they didn't make it any fuller than they did. She's not incapable of standing up on her own, but it's a little tricky.
So what's my final word here? Nit-picky gripes on Starfire aside, this is a really cool two-pack. I have no real idea if Mattel did a second run and cleared up some of the quality control issues that I heard reported on the first run, or if I was fortunate enough to receive a really exemplary set. In either case, I'm not complaining. Neither Adam Strange nor Starfire are exactly A-team characters in the DC Universe, but then the DC Universe Classics line has shown that it's not afraid to produce figures from some of the more distant corners of the DC Universe. And these are two very cool ones. I may wish Starfire was a bit taller, but much like Sinestro, on her own, she's a very impressive figure. Maybe someday we can get a fully height-adjusted two-pack of those two (I did hear they stretched Sinestro's neck at one point, so Mattel is aware of these matters), but in the meantime, this Starfire is more than acceptable, she really is excellent.
So if you've been reluctant to pick up this two-pack for one reason or another, worry not. There's no reason you shouldn't get a very impressive couple of cool DC Universe Classics figures. The DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS two-pack of ADAM STRANGE and STARFIRE definitely has my most enthusiastic recommendation!