REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS VIGILANTE
The eighth series of Mattel's superb line of DC Universe Classics action figures has been, to date, somewhat elusive. Nevertheless, I have managed, with help, to obtain a number of the figures from this line. One of these is a character known as VIGILANTE.
There have been a number of characters in the DC Universe that have gone by this name. The first was actually a Golden Age character with a distinct Western motif.
The original Vigilante debuted in Action Comics #42 (November 1941). Greg Sanders' (the spelling was changed to "Saunders" in the 1990s) grandfather was an Indian fighter, and his father was a sheriff in Wyoming. As a young man, Saunders moved east to New York City and became a country singer, radio's "Prairie Troubadour".
Greg returned to his home after his father was killed, bringing to justice the gang of bandits who killed the sheriff during a stagecoach hold-up. Afterwards Saunders devoted his life to battling criminals in the same manner, taking the Western-themed identity of the Vigilante. A slight revision to this came a few months later, when it was explained that the stagecoach was used to transport gold from a mine, and that the bandits were actually Easterners, since the idea of a stagecoach heist in modern times was improbable.
The majority of the Vigilante's solo adventures were against non-powered, costumed criminals. He was an excellent brawler, trick shooter, sharpshooter, horseman and motorcycle rider, and an expert with the lariat. These skills gave him advantage over his adversaries in his adventures, which centered primarily in New York City.
The Vigilante was revived in the seventies in the pages of Justice League of America, when the Seven Soldiers of Victory were brought back into active continuity. Vigilante continued to sporadically appear as a superhero in DC comics until recently, having been established as running a dude ranch in Mesa City. The character is also notable for being one of the first DC Comics characters adapted for live-action film, beating Superman himself by one year.
This Vigilante also appeared in several episodes of the animated Justice League Unlimited, and had a very well-received action figure produced as part of that series. To date, however, there has not been a DC Universe Classics version of the original Vigilante, and the character portrayed by this action figure is not that Vigilante.
The name was revived for an entirely different individual in 1983, spun out of the then super-popular Teen Titans title, and created by the book's creative team, Marv Wolfman and George Perez. He was first introduced in 1983's New Teen Titans Annual.
Once again, Wikipedia explains: His identity this time was Adrian Chase. Chase had put in several appearances in the Teen Titans title prior to becoming the Vigilante, on the one hand trying to rein in, to some degree, what he saw as a potentially troublesome team of teen heroes, and on the other hand, feeling increasingly restricted in his work by a legal system that, as a New York district attorney, he was starting to lose faith in.
This culminated when Chase's family was killed by mobsters. This caused Chase to seek justice in his own way as the Vigilante. The parallels to Marvel Comics' Punisher character are inevitable, although I think it would be fair to say that Chase wasn't quite as nasty, and he had a cooler costume in my opinion.
After his initial appearance he gained his own ongoing series initially, written by Wolfman, and later included writers such as Alan Moore and Paul Kupperberg. In the early issues of the series, it was shown that Adrian took pains to make sure he did not kill his enemies - he would regularly use non-lethal weaponry to disable his opponents. However, in issue 37, Vigilante allowed a police officer to die as a direct result of his actions. Vigilante then became more violent and cared less about who was caught in the crossfire.
Throughout the series Chase was tormented over the justice of his actions and the pain it had brought to others. As early as the second issue of the series Chase flirted with abandoning his costumed identity after he savagely beat an ex-convict who turned out to be innocent. Eventually Chase abandoned his identity as Vigilante, believing that he could be both more effective and also happier as a judge. However, during his absence the identity of Vigilante was assumed, in succession, by two of his friends without his knowledge.
The first of these was fellow judge Alan Welles, who operated in a much more violent manner, even executing petty thieves. Chase eventually tracked down and killed this incarnation of Vigilante, without realizing it was his friend. The incident led to increased guilt on Chase's part and also increased scrutiny from a law enforcement task force headed by Harry Stein, as he attempted to cover up Alan Welles' role as Vigilante.
Shortly after this Dave Winston, Adrian Chase's bailiff, assumed the Vigilante identity. Refusing to kill, Winston traded on the fierce reputation of Vigilante to intimidate information out of thugs. He was killed by Peacemaker while attempting to stop the hijacking of a plane which Chase was on. In the wake of Winston's death, Chase once again assumed the role of Vigilante, feeling that it was the only way to protect those he loved. Seeking revenge on Peacemaker, the out of shape Chase was beaten in a fight and unmasked on live TV, thereby ending his secret identity and forcing him even further into the role of Vigilante.
As the series progressed Chase became ever more conflicted over his role as Vigilante, the violence he engaged in, and the harm he caused to those around him. He also became increasingly mentally unstable—alternating between bouts of enraged violence, paranoia, and terrible remorse for his actions. His mounting guilt culminated in the final issue of his series (#50) where, after contemplating the course of his life, Chase died by his own hand.
Adrian made an appearance in the Day of Judgement limited series, as one of the dead heroes in Purgatory. He and the others run interference, battling the guardians of the realm, so other living heroes can escape with the soul of Hal Jordan. As stated in issue #5 of the limited series, Adrian's rebellious battle against the guardians earns their 'cases' a review by -- whomever in the DC Universe is in charge of that sort of thing.
The next Vigilante was Patricia Trayce, a rogue Gotham City police detective who teams up with Deathstroke the Terminator in the Deathstroke the Terminator series written by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez. Trayce found the gear of the second Vigilante (Adrian Chase) and adapted the guise. She first appeared in Deathstroke the Terminator #6. In Deathstroke the Terminator #11, Pat Trayce takes up the uniform of the Vigilante. She was trained by Deathstroke, and soon started to work alone.
Late in 2005, DC published a Vigilante limited series by writer Bruce Jones and artist Ben Oliver. The identity of the title character is initially left mysterious, but apparently this is a new incarnation of the character.
His name was Justin "Jay" Sutter. When he encountered a murderer as a child, he created a second personality in his mind, The Vigilante. Jay at some point changed his name to Justin Scott Powell and would become the Vigilante subconsciously. While Powell was unaware of the Vigilante personality, the Vigilante knew about Powell. At the end of the series, Powell was able to reconcile the two personalities.
This Vigilante was last seen, alongside Wild Dog and the current Crimson Avenger, on a rooftop in the great battle of Metropolis, raining bullets down on the Trigger Twins, the Madmen, the second Spellbinder, and others in Infinite Crisis #7.
The most recent Vigilante, Dorian Chase, appeared in Nightwing #133-137. He wears a costume similar to Adrian Chase's old costume. This Vigilante also appears in Gotham Underground, set after his initial encounter with Nightwing. He is shown to be a formidable fighter, but is defeated easily by Batman. Following the events of Vigilante #1 (February, 2009), the new Vigilante is seen out of costume for the first time and is referred to by his ally JJ as "Dorian." He initially operates under the identity of Joe Flynn, a small time criminal with a rap sheet, but it is later revealed that the real Joe Flynn is dead. Dorian has the technology to graft someone else's face to his real face and his assistant changes the police records so his fingerprint and DNA point back to his fake identity.
At the end of the first story arc, Dorian abandons the Joe Flynn identity and begins to make preparations to assume a new identity of a dead and forgotten criminal. It is also revealed that Dorian is the brother of the late Adrian Chase in Vigilante #9. Little is known about his past but his wife is dead and he served time in prison for his work with the mob.
At one point, JJ warns Vigilante about the dangers of pushing himself to the point of destruction, commenting that he "saw it happen" with Adrian Chase. Vigilante describes his predecessor as a fool.
Recently, It has been revealed that the Vigilante had been operating unseen in Europe for several years before moving back to the U.S. and going after local mobs and criminals.
I was sort of left wondering which of these individuals the figure was supposed to represent. I hadn't really followed the Vigilante's adventures for quite a few years, and had no real idea that his backstory -- or perhaps THEIR backstories -- had gotten this convoluted.
The back of the package card made it clear that the figure was supposed to represent the first modern Vigilante, Adrain Chase. I suppose if you want him to represent another personal favorite, that's fine -- the mask covers the entire face and doesn't come off anyway.
So, how's the figure? Extremely impressive, and it features more distinctive parts than I might have expected. Any variance from using the basic male body mold is worth making note of. Now, don't get me wrong -- I'm pleased that the Four Horsemen design team created a basic body sculpt that can be used pretty much across the board. It gives the DC Universe Classics line a good consistent look which I sincerely appreciate. I think it adds a lot to the line, and it's more than some other super-hero lines, past and present, can say about themselves. But a little variety here and there in the details is welcome.
For some reason, the Vigilante's costume has always reminded me of something that a motorcycle daredevil stuntman might wear. Most of the costume is black. There is a white line in a diamond shape around the neck, which creates a sort of "V" on the front and the back. Beyond that, there is a second set of lines, in blue, which double the "V" on the front and back, and run down the sleeves.
Vigilante wears white gloves and boots, with black segments in them. Here is where the varied parts come into play. The boots have a distinct sculpted rim. Not all DC Universe Classics figures who are wearing distinct boots have this feature. If you look at characters such as Blue Beetle, Lightray, and a number of others, their boots are painted on as part of their overall costumes. This is not inappropriate, but it's interesting to see sculpted boot design on Vigilante.
Moreover, there are the gloves. The tops of Vigilante's gloves are distinctly ribbed, and the black segments are clearly indented.
Vigilante wears a mask that covers his entire head. There are white and blue stripes on it that match those on the body of his uniform, reinforcing the "V" logo. The only other visible detail on the mask is a pair of red-lensed goggles, which add a small amount of intense color on the otherwise largely black-with-white and as such somewhat colorless uniform.
For the figure, Mattel has done something very interesting. The goggles were molded separately, in transparent red. A white frame was painted around them, and they were glued into place. Underneath them, you can just about make out the shape of eyes, but they are not painted. This is well in keeping with Vigilante's look in the comics. You couldn't really see past the visor, but sometimes you could see a little detail.
Vigilante is wearing an equipment belt. This belt is yellow. While not as sophisticated as Batman's utility belt, I am sure, it is nevertheless very well-equipped, and Mattel has created a very nicely detailed and very well painted uniform accessory here.
The belt has a number of well-detailed, non-opening pouches on it. The buckle and some smaller straps are painted in a darker yellow, and the center of the buckle is metallic gold, as are the snaps on the pouches.
There is a set of non-removable nunchuks on the back of the belt, painted in the darker yellow, with a gold chain between the two rods. There is a holster on the left side of the belt, with a removable pistol in it. The pistol looks like a somewhat old-fashioned revolver, almost like something one might expect to see from the ORIGINAL Vigilante. The pistol is silver, with a metallic blue handle.
Packaged in Vigilante's right hand is a more modern-looking pistol. Resembling a smaller version of something that looks a whole lot like an UZI (not being a gun expert, I have no idea if this thing is based on a real firearm), and I suspect might be some sort of machine-pistol.
One additional weapon accessory is packaged with the figure. This is a rifle. It's about 3-3/4" in length and is very well detailed, about 95% like an M-16 with a scope mounted to the top. It also has a strap molded to it, which is molded to the rear of the rifle, and hooks to the front. The strap can be detached at this end.
The pistol and the rifle are molded in a dark pewter color, with a somewhat metallic finish, and a few painted silver highlights.
Obviously, the Vigilante figure is superbly articulated. The figure is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. The left hand is a distinct mold, with trigger finger extended. The right hand is designed to clasp a second gun.
So, what's my final word? This is a cool figure. There seem to be an increasing number of "lesser-knowns" turning up in the DC Universe Classics line, and honestly, that's fine with me. The more the merrier, if Mattel can keep making them well, and I have no complaints about the structure, assembly, or paint work on Vigilante. He's really excellent.
If you're looking for the DC Universe version of The Punisher -- he's cool enough to stand on his own merits, if you've just always wanted a highly impressive action figure of DC's modern Vigilante, here he is!
The DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of THE VIGILANTE definitely has my highest recommendation!