REVIEW: JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED CRIME SYNDICATE SUPERWOMAN FIGURE
The popular JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED line from Mattel's DC Universe offerings continues, even though as of this writing there seems to be some consternation between Mattel and its exclusive retailer, Target, which hopefully will be old news by the time this article actually appears, and we'll be looking forward to the continuation of this fine line based on the amazing animated series.
This latest figure, SUPERWOMAN, never appeared in the series. However, she's part of a team within the DC Universe that I've always found quite interesting -- the CRIME SYNDICATE OF AMERIKA.
What we have with the Crime Syndicate is the old "Mirror Universe" ploy, perhaps best known by the Classic Star Trek Episode "Mirror, Mirror", although other concepts have used it here and there, and frankly, the Crime Syndicate came first.
In the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths days of the DC Multiverse, there had been several successful team-ups between the modern-day heroes of the Justice League of Earth-1, and the Golden Age heroes of the Justice Society of Earth-2. In 1964, their team-up postulated the question -- Are their more Earths out there? And what if on one of them, Earth's most notable super-beings were not heroes?
Welcome to Earth-3. The original Crime Syndicate of America debuted in Justice League of America #29. The Crime Syndicate of America originally lived on Earth-Three, a world where history was "reversed" from the world we knew (e.g. British colonists declared their independence from America, and President John Wilkes Booth was assassinated by Abraham Lincoln). It initially had no superheroes, only the supervillains of the Crime Syndicate, though this changed with the advent of heroic Lex Luthor who used his vast intelligence for good.
In their first appearance, the Crime Syndicate, bored with the ease with which they were able to commit crimes on their Earth (and with no one to truly challenge them), discovered the existence of Earth-One and Earth- Two, and set out to challenge the JLA and JSA to a lengthy fight, after which the Syndicate was ultimately defeated. Following this defeat, they were imprisoned in an unbreakable bubble generated by Green Lantern's power ring, and placed in a "limbo" dimension between the Earths.
Over the following years, the Syndicate or one of its members would occasionally escape and attempt to wreak havoc on Earth-One and/or Earth-Two.
The original Crime Syndicate of America were among the first casualties in the Crisis on Infinite Earths, as these villains used all their powers to try to save their Earth from the wave of anti-matter energy that was engulfing and destroying their world. It was all to no avail, and the Crime Syndicate perished along with their entire universe, as the DC Multiverse was reduced to a single universe.
In 2000, writer Grant Morrison decided he wanted to revive the Crims Syndicate. This time, they would occupy an Earth that was within an anti- matter universe, which was otherwise best known for the planet of Qward, and its warrior race.
In the superb hardcover "JLA: Earth-2", The Crime Syndicate's antimatter Earth possesses a "reversed" history similar to Earth-Three's, but with a much darker tone to both the team and its world. Unlike the Crime Syndicate of Earth-Three, this Crime Syndicate of Amerika are able to rule their world (a change from their pre-Crisis counterparts, who were unsuccessful in conquering their world) though allow governments to continue operating.
The entire planet is basically corrupt, possessing little in the way of moral values, with the Crime Syndicate at the top of the heap through power, sheer ruthlessness and manipulation. The antimatter Crime Syndicate's motto is "Cui Bono?" ("Who profits?").
The only universally respected principle on their world is that of the "favor bank"--if someone does you a favor, you owe them a favor in return that must be repaid whenever the favor is called in.
This Crime Syndicate's world was expanded upon in a multi-part story written by Kurt Busiek in the pages of JLA. 2003's JLA/Avengers crossover, also written by Kurt Busiek seemed to involve the destruction of the Crime Syndicate's universe, but this was later reversed when the special's villain, Krona, was defeated. The Crime Syndicate later reappeared in the Syndicate Rules arc where they learn of the 'reboot' of their universe, and blame the matter universe and the Justice League. Chaos understandably ensues. This story is available as a trade paperback and has my enthusiastic recommendation.
Members of this Crime Syndicate have turned up elsewhere, as well, notably Ultraman, Owlman, and Superwoman, in a three-part story arc involving Superman, and in a Superman/Batman Annual allegedly retelling the first meeting of the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel. The authenticity of that particular tale is debatable, but it was a cool story in and of itself, with the Crime Syndicate on hand.
It is after this that the history of the characters gets a little muddled. Surrounding the events of Infinite Crisis, a new Earth-3 came into being, with a new organization called the Crime Society. Although these characters bore the same names of the Crime Syndicate, and had some dealings with prominent DC heroes along the way, it is not thought that they are the same individuals as the Crime Syndicate from the antimatter universe.
That Crime Syndicate has apparently turned up in the pages of Trinity, according to the Wikipedia entry which I've been culling some of this origin story from. At the end of the "Syndicate Rules" story, a Qwardian attack fleet is on its way to the antimatter Earth. In Trinity #9, it is revealed that their world was badly damaged by an attack from the Weaponers of Qward. The antimatter Crime Syndicate have adopted open active control of their Earth and have been abducting people from throughout all of the individual fifty-two universes in the current positive matter Multiverse to use as slave labor in their source Earth's repair. After the Trinity defeat and imprison their anti-matter counterparts and free the slaves, the anti-matter Earth falls into even worse chaos than their first visit, without the controlling influence of Ultraman, Owlman and Superwoman to watch over it.
I haven't read that particular tale -- yet -- so I really can't comment on the look of the characters. I will say this -- the overall costume designs of the Crime Syndicate characters was vastly improved by the Grand Morrison hardcover, but the subsequent Crime Society took a few steps back. Personally, I'd rather see the Crime Syndicate remain the most prominent representations of these characters.
Interestingly enough, the character to undergo the least visual revision in all of this has been Superwoman. So -- who is she? Well, she's pretty much the Crime Syndicate's version of Wonder Woman. And as far as the antimatter Earth version is concerned -- she's also Lois Lane!
Taking the alias Lois Lane, Superwoman is an Amazon by birth, and has risen through the ranks to become the chief editor of the Daily Planet. In appearance she resembles Wonder Woman's secret identity of Diana Prince.
The only civilian who knows of Superwoman's secret identity is Jimmy Olsen, who, as a sexual deviant, does what she tells him in exchange for the favour of watching when she changes from Lois to Superwoman. He ignores her gibes and insults, even when she taunts, "Superwoman's Snitch, Jimmy Olsen. That's what your own newspaper calls you."
Her lover and husband Ultraman hates Superwoman's frigidity towards him. Meanwhile, she is carrying on a torrid affair with Owlman, and they sneak off whenever they feel Ultraman is not watching. However, from his floating fortress (the antimatter counterpart to the Fortress of Solitude), Ultraman doesn't hesitate to fire warning bursts of heat vision towards them whenever he catches them together.
The Crime Syndicate never appeared in the animated Justice League series. The closest counterpart to them would be the Justice Lords, an alternate-Earth counterpart to the Justice League that used harsh, totalitarian tactics to conquer their Earth. However, the identities of the Justice Lords were identical to those of the League -- Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, etc. All of these characters were made as action figures a few years ago, to great acclaim.
Apparently there was a plan in place to produce a Justice League animated movie that would have introduced the Crime Syndicate. However, that movie hasn't happened. I'd like to think it still might, someday.
Meanwhile, I'm certainly not going to complain about the figures being added to the lineup. I've seen pictures of Ultraman and Owlman, and they're both definitely the modern versions, and I sincerely hope they happen. At least, we have Superwoman.
So, how's the figure? Really a very nice animated-style version of the character. Granted, Superwoman is not the most colorfully-garbed member of the Crime Syndicate. She wears what looks as much as anything like a one-piece black swimsuit, high black gloves, relatively short black boots, and a yellow cape. The cape is held in place by a silver clasp with a large oval piece in the center with an "S" sculpted into it.
As one would expect, much of the figure uses previous parts, at least the body. The cape MAY be knew, as I don't recall any previous female figures in the line that had capes, although there might have been a Wonder Woman version that had one. I really don't recall. In any case, it's an excellent cape, and if I may say something -- I wish Mattel would make the capes in their DC Universe Classics line out of the same very flexible material that they use for their Justice League capes. I know there's a size difference, but my DCUC Mister Miracle has so much "starch" in his cape it's actually a hindrance to articulation!
Articulation is not a major factor with Justice League figures, admittedly. It never has been. Superwoman is poseable at the head, arms, and legs, as are most JLU figures. I'm all in favor of a good range of articulation. I accept the limitations of the JLU line if it means getting animated-style figures of characters that otherwise would not likely be rendered in plastic at all.
Furthermore, a high range of articulation can be a difficult thing to achieve, especially in this 4" scale. And while I like plenty of articulation as much as anyone else, I am inclined to draw the line when a figure starts to look less like a reasonable facsimile of a human being -- even a colorfully-costumed, super-powered one -- and looks more like something that came out of an Erector Set box.
Back to Superwoman. The face is painted well, although Superwoman has a sort of bug-eyed look to her face. She has very distinct blue eyes, but they're rather wide. Wonder what the level of caffeine in the coffee in the antimatter universe must be like. It does manage to make her look rather mean, however, I'll give it that. The eyes, eyebrows, and lips are all very neatly painted.
About the only downside to the paint job is that the silver oval on her cape clasp, which is just painted onto the body of the figure, doesn't have the "S" symbol imprinted into it. This might've been a little too tricky to manage, or some such, but it is noticeable for its absence.
As with Wonder Woman, Superwoman also uses a magic lasso. As Wonder Woman's lasso compels people to tell the truth, Superwoman's releases people's inhibitions. That may sound a little strange, but the anti-matter Earth can be a pretty strange place.
Interestingly enough, Superwoman DOES come with a lasso accessory -- which I think is more than can be said about some of the Wonder Woman figures over the years. It's a coil of golden rope, which is molded in a coiled position and doesn't unfurl, but it's cool that it's been included. I'm not generally much of an accessory hound, but I was glad to see it.
Superwoman also comes with a clear plastic display base. Some of the female figures in the JLU line tend to have a little trouble standing up on their own, although I was able to get Superwoman to do so with little difficulty.
Amusingly, since she never appeared in the animated series, the images on the back of her card actually use the Justice Lords version of Wonder Woman.
So, what's my final word here? I'm impressed. The Crime Syndicate hasn't known a lot of action figure action. DC Direct did the original versions a number of years ago, and Mattel has in mind doing the classic Ultraman in their DC Universe Classics line soon. I wouldn't mind seeing the entire modern Crime Syndicate in the DCUC line, but I have no objection to some of them turning up in the JLU line, either.
I am sincerely hopeful, if not entirely optimistic at the moment, that Superwoman will be joined by fellow CSA members Ultraman and Owlman. But whether or not this comes to pass, at least Superwoman is out there, and you can show your support for both the Crime Syndicate and, more significantly, the hopeful continuation of the Justice League Unlimited line, by heading to your local Target and bringing Superwoman into your collection.
The JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED SUPERWOMAN figure most definitely has my highest recommendation!