REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS "COLLECT-AND-CONNECT" VALIDUS
If one phrase can describe Wave 15 of Mattel's excellent line of DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS figures, it would probably be -- diverse. With a little obscure thrown in. In the not-so-obscure part of the assortment, you've got the long overdue and certainly welcome Martian Manhunter, as well as the second Fans' Choice winner, Teen Titan Raven. In the somewhat more obscure category, you've got OMAC, Golden Pharaoh, Starman, and Jemm, Son of Saturn. In the "What the ?!??" category, you've got Sinestro Corps Batman, but that's a separate review entirely. In fact, they all are, but I mention them to try to put the Wave, and the Collect-and-Connect figure, into perspective.
Of course, every wave of DC Universe Classics figures comes with pieces which can be assembled into an additional figure, generally a larger one. We've seen the likes of Giganta, Kilowog, Atom Smasher, Kalibak, and others. But when the Collect-and-Connect for Wave 15 was first announced, months ago as I am writing this, it raised more than a few eyebrows. It was VALIDUS. And the reason it raised those eyebrows is because Validus wasn't someone that had really menaced any of these characters. In point of fact, he was a villain who was a member of the Fatal Five, who were among the best known enemies of the Legion of Super-Heroes, a popular team of heroes from the future, the 31st century!
This was extremely interesting, since fans of DC Comics and of Mattel's DC Universe Classics line had been screaming for the Legion to be brought into the DC Universe Classics line -- basically ever since it stretched its boundaries beyond its Superman-Batman centric predecessor, DC Super-Heroes. If Mattel was doing a Collect-and-Connect of Validus, might that mean that the Legion was somehow in the works?
The answer to that question, which as one would expect received a rousing response, was a definitive YES, as announced at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con. In 2011, Mattel will make available, through their online store at MattyCollector.Com, an incredible TWELVE-PACK of DC Universe Classics figures representing the Legion of Super-Heroes. The set will include Superboy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, Brainiac 5, Colossal Boy, Wildfire, Timber Wolf, Karate Kid, Ultra Boy, Matter-Eater Lad, and Chameleon Boy!
I've been a fan of the Legion of Super-Heroes since I was a kid. The only action figures of them that have ever existed was a special Justice League four-pack a while back, also offered through MattyCollector. The animated series never got a toy line. The only other Legion "figures" I've ever owned were a bunch of cardboard cutouts that I drew and made when I was a kid. And regardless of what artistic skills I may be able to claim, they still looked pretty sorry next to my Megos. So you can guess how much I'm looking forward to this set.
And, with this Collect-and-Connect of Validus, anybody who has him and gets that set, their Legion will have one of their most ardent adversaries ready to meet them.
So who is Validus? Well, thanks to several reboots for the future world of the Legion, that's a very good question.
Validus first appeared in Adventure Comics #352, in January of 1967, and was created by Jim Shooter and Mort Weisinger. He was introduced as a member of the Fatal Five, which also included Tharok, a cyborg who was literally half-human and half machine; Persuader, a maniacal assassin with a high-powered axe; Emerald Empress, a dangerous woman with an eerie object known as the Emerald Eye of Ekron; and Mano, a maniac with a hand that could destroy anything it touched.
In the latter half of the 30th century, an entity known as the Sun-Eater threatened to consume Earth's sun, thus destroying the solar system. Desperate to atop the Sun-Eater, Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes recruited the aid of the Fatal Five. They discovered Validus among their ranks, of course, but were unaware of his heritage, which would be established in later stories -- for a while, anyway. The Fatal Five reluctantly agreed to help the Legion, and the Sun-Eater's efforts were averted. Validus remained a loyal member of the Fatal Five, always ready to do Tharok's bidding. During one memorable altercation with the Legion, Validus killed Lyle Norg, the original Invisible Kid.
And there's some irony for you, seeing as how the planned Legion 12-pack includes an empty space in the boxed set, which is supposed to be an "invisible" figure of Invisible Kid. Hopefully someday we'll get a not-so-invisible version of Invisible Kid.
Validus' true origin, revealed much later, stemmed from a diabolical plot by a powerful enemy who had long plagued many of the heroes of the DC Universe. As revenge for his defeat in the "Great Darkness Saga", Darkseid himself kidnapped one of the identical twin children of Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl at birth. He sent the newborn back in time, cursed with a monstrous body and with near-mindlessness, that made him easily controlled by the likes of Tharok and the Emerald Empress. Darkseid's plan was that either the parent or the child might well kill the other in a future conflict.
Years later, Validus came under Darkseid's influence yet again. He manipulated Validus against Lightning Lad, placing him in a situation where the Legionnaire would be forced to kill him in order to save the life of his other son, Graym. Thanks to the efforts of Saturn Girl, the plot was averted and both parents discovered that Validus was their other son. Soon after, Validus reverted to his normal, human form, and his parents renamed him Garridan.
During the "Five Years Later" era, it was revealed that Darkseid's tampering with Garridan's body chemistry had spawned a virus which Brainiac 5 dubbed "The Validus Plague". Only natives of the planets Winath and Titan -- the homeworlds of Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl -- were susceptible to the disease, but for them it was fatal. As a result, Garridan was forced to wear a containment suit, allowing him mobility but keeping him in perpetual medical quarantine. His replacement in the re-formed Fatal Five was a similar enigmatic behemoth who was named "Mordecai" by Leland McCauley IV, another Legion adversary.
After the events of the "Zero Hour" mini-series, the continuity of the Legion was entirely rebooted, and Validus' origin was changed considerably. He was no longer the child of Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl, and Darkseid had nothing to do with his origin. He remains a decided mystery.
In the current continuity, Validus, along with the other members of the Fatal Five, were among the villains in Superboy-Prime's Legion of Super-Villains, who battled the Legion in the "Legion of Three Worlds" mini-series, that was loosely tied into the Final Crisis. However, Garridan Ranzz, along with his twin brother Graym, has recently been depicted as a young child living with his parents, Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad. So, whoever Validus is in the present continuity, he is not one of their children.
As to his powers and abilities, Validus possesses immense size, and near-incalculable superhuman strength. In fact, on one occasion, it took the combined might of Superboy, Mon-El, and Ultra Boy to overpower him. In addition, he is extremely resistant to all forms of harm, and can fire energy bolts from his brain, which are powerful enough to incapacitate even a Kryptonian such as Superboy, or a Daxamite like Mon-El, with a single hit. He is also immune to telepathy, which is doubtless why Saturn Girl didn't figure out who he was in the original continuity.
His weakness, such as it is, is his mindlessless. If not directed and controlled by somebody, he's as likely to just fly off into a rage, or possibly even do nothing. This guy makes the Hulk look like Einstein, and he's just about as dangerous.
Validus' first animated appearance was actually in the Justice League Unlimited episode, "Far From Home", which guest-starred the Legion. Validus turned up along with the rest of the Fatal Five in the Legion's own animated series, and in season two, was seen at the side of Imperiex. His mindlessness might be called into question here, since Imperiex seems to understand Validus' seemingly incoherent grunting. In one episode he answers Validus' question as if he had spoken clearly.
So -- how's the figure? Well -- he's big, but perhaps not as big as Validus generally appears. Then again, if they made him THAT big, he'd never fit into the packaging. Or he'd have to be spread out a lot more. It wouldn't've been Validus' torso in the Sinestro Corps Batman package -- it would've been his right thumb. And granted, Validus is one of those characters whose size is at least somewhat dependent on whomever happens to be drawing the adventure he appears in.
No question he's big, though. The average height of a DC Universe Classics figure, taking a basic male hero as a measure, is about 6-3/4". Validus is more like 9-1/2", and a whole lot stockier in build. Not to bring up Marvel's not-so-jolly Green Giant too many times, but Validus is one of those Hulk-like characters with the expanded musculature that results in him being one of those "wide-bodied" characters that pretty much look like they can pound you to pulp with a single shot -- and are probably intent on doing so.
Not surprisingly, Validus shares a number of common body parts with another super-sized wide body -- Kilowog, the Green Lantern who was released back in Wave 11. However, there's enough differences between the two figures so that Validus still needed some unique parts. Validus is able to use the same lower arms, mid-torso, lower torso, and legs as Kilowog. His hands and feet are entirely different, and his upper arms have additional pieces molded to them which precludes them coming from Kilowog. Obviously the head is different. It's the upper torso I'm not certain about. They look extremely similar. However, Kilowog's Green Lantern uniform has a wide open neck that shows a fair amount of Kilowog's rather leathery and wrinkled skin. Validus is entirely encased in his costume -- although precisely what is Validus' costume may be open to some conjecture. But the point is, the neck and shoulders of Validus are entirely smooth. One is left wondering if the upper torso is entirely a new mold, or one somewhat reworked from the Kilowog torso? And honestly, I don't know. The crazy thing is this set of molds will likely turn up yet again, for a Collect-and-Connect of Sinestro Corps member Arkillo, in Series 1 of the Green Lantern Classics.
Validus' head -- you know, one thing's always driven me crazy about this character -- where the heck are his eyes? It's bad enough that he's nearly mindless, but it looks as though he can't even see where he's going! There simply are no visible eyes on this guy. He was pulling the creepy "no-apparent-eyes" look over a decade before that thing in the "Alien" movie creeped out Sigourney Weaver.
Validus' head is -- semi-human. Barely. It has a more or less oval shape. But there are no apparent eyes, ears, or nose. The only visible features are an exposed brain, with a transparent shield over it, and a gaping, angry mouth, relatively human in appearance. The overall sculpting is excellent, especially on the brain and the mouth. But it's still weird.
Validus has a powerful, muscular, humanoid body. The arms are somewhat larger, or at least as large, as the legs. As much as anything, this is a reflection of using the Kilowog body, but again, there's no reason to assume that Validus couldn't look like this in the comics, depending on who's drawing him.
Validus is wearing a thick silver armband around each bicep, from which a short, segmented cable emanates, connected to a circular jack on the shoulder above it. The purpose for these is unknown. Interestingly, these cables actually cross an articulation point on the action figure, between the shoulder and the upper arm swivel of the bicep. That must have made assembly of the arms interesting. I suppose there was some compensation in that they didn't have to assemble the entire figure at the factory. We get to do that once we've rounded up all the parts. The cables are not much of a hindrance to the upper arm swivel. Obviously, you're not going to rotate the arm all the way around, but then it wouldn't move like that in real life, either.
Validus has two fingers and a thumb on each hand, so he had that look going several years before Nightcrawler of the X-Men (who ironically enough was originally proposed as a Legion member by Dave Cockrum when he was working for DC, but was rejected). Despite the size and limited number of digits, the hands are otherwise fairly human-looking, as far as they go, and are very well sculpted and detailed. Validus' feet appear to have two toes each, with two spiky claws coming out of each boot. Unless the claws are part of the boots. That's not entirely clear.
As to Validus' costume -- since I don't know what else to call it, but at least I can discuss the colors, and then theorize a bit. Validus' head is white, except for the exposed brain. The white tapers down the front and back to somewhat above the waist, where an up-angled area of black takes over, and maintains to the trunks. Validus has black wristbands and black boots, with silver claws coming out as apparent toes. The rest of his body, or costume, which includes the sides of his chest and back, as well as his arms, legs, and hands, except for the wristbands and boots, is purple in color, sort of a deep lavender. Perhaps not the most villainous color around, but if you've got a rampaging monstrosity of this size charging at you and he's also able to fire some sort of brain blast, criticizing his fashion sense is not likely to be at the top of your "to do" list.
For me, there is some question as to what is costume and what is Validus, if that's even a legitimate question. There is no apparent exposed skin, no apparent flesh tone -- which if he were the son of Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl, that would be the logical color, since they both appear to be Caucasian humans, regardless of their planets of origin. The white on Validus' head appears to go into the mouth all the way to the gum line. And yet, his hands are purple, and they have visible fingernails, that are a slightly darker purple. Conversely, the illustration in the online research I did on the character did not show visible fingernails, and yet, I suppose it's possible. Then there's those two claws coming out of his feet. How much of this is costume?
I think we have to draw a speculative conclusion here from one phrase from his backstory, when the Darkseid part of it was still relevant, where it says that Darkseid "sent [him] back in time, cursed with a monstrous body..." As such, I suspect it's entirely possible that the issue of a costume is irrelevant. This simply IS Validus. It's what Darkseid turned him into. Granted, that part of his origin story is no longer the case, so we're left with the question once again, but the answer, even shrouded in mystery, might still be the same. There is no costume or uniform. This is just Validus.
Painted detailing on the figure is excellent, especially the mouth, which is wide open and fairly deep. You can rather effectively feed him an M&M if you're so inclined. Most of the rest of the painted detailing is dividing points between color areas, but this has been very neatly and effectively done.
Of course, Validus is superbly articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel (as far as the cables will allow), elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, knees, and ankles. Notably absent from a conventional DC Universe Classics figure is the lack of an upper leg swivel, but it's not that big of a deal. Kilowog is the same way, and I am sure Arkillo will be, as well. They still stand well, pose well, and look good.. I'm not complaining.
So what's my final word here? Maybe Validus fits into this wave better than I think. With the exceptions of Martian Manhunter and Raven, the rest of this wave is pretty well comprised of characters that one wouldn't really expect to see merit their own action figures, if it weren't for the fact that Mattel and the Four Horsemen are determined to bring as much of the DC Universe to plastic life as they possibly can. Okay, Golden Pharaoh has only ever been an action figure, initially in the Super Powers line, but who figured him for a return appearance? Not that I'm complaining, he's one of the highlights of the line. But Jemm? OMAC? Yeah, you can pretty well put the same question mark after Validus.
Now, admittedly, you can't just go out and buy Validus. You need to get pretty much the entirety of Wave 15. Golden Pharaoh comes with a "Super Powers" display base, but trust me, he's worth bringing in regardless. Honestly, the biggest oddball in the line is Sinestro Corps Batman. Everybody else is cool, so you're not going to lose out by snagging the entire wave of figures. And then you have Validus! And with that Legion of Super-Heroes Set drawing ever closer, you really ought to have him. I doubt very much that Mattel and the Four Horsemen intend to limit themselves to twelve members of the Legion and one bad guy. There will be more from the 31st century DC Universe. It starts here. You'll want to have Validus to kick it off.
The DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS "COLLECT-AND-CONNECT" figure of VALIDUS definitely has my highest recommendation!