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DC Universe Classics
by Monkey Boy

Deathstroke the Terminator is awesome. He's been around for almost 30 years, but it seems his awesomeness is only recently being recognized, by fans and comic writers alike. He's a merc who uses 90% of his brain. You'd think this would make him levitate or be able to shoot fireballs from his eyes or crush peoples' brains with his mind... but basically all it means is that he's an amazing combat strategist and tactician. He also kicks ass with just about any weapon, be it guns, swords, or his mitts.

Decorated military veteran Slade Wilson served his country one last time by volunteering for adrenocorticotropic hormone experiments. These experiments were supposed to increase the brain-activity and reflexes of its subjects, creating super-enhanced soldiers... but the subjects died or, like Wilson, were left crippled in a vegetative state. But Wilson began to recuperate, discovering that his strength, agility and stamina had all increased nearly tenfold! He assumed the identity of Deathstroke the Terminator, assassin for hire.

Anyway, like I said, only recently have writers begun to exploit how awesome Deathstroke can really be. Originally a Teen Titans villain, Identity Crisis showed that he could single-handedly take out the Justice League's B-team by systematically exploiting all their weaknesses (and resisting the power of Kyle Rayner's power ring through sheer willpower). Like comic writers, toymakers are also coming around to Slade's awesomeness.

DC Direct released a Deathstroke some years ago, and it was recently followed up by an unmasked and decidedly more flamboyantly painted retool. Art Asylum also released a DC Minimates two pack of Deathstroke and his new nemesis, Green Arrow. Bandai also made a couple of animated Slade figures that are probably better left unmentioned. But now, finally, Mattel has stepped up and released their (by which I mean, the Four Horsemen's) version of the Terminator for the third series of DC Superheroes... or whatever stupid thing they're calling it now.

And it blows DCD's example out of the water. Now, don't get me wrong, I totally loved the DCD Deathstroke. It was one of the only DCD figures I can recall that I didn't regret buying soon after the purchase. Having said that, the Four Horsemen rarely have trouble demolishing competitors. Deathstroke's sculpt is amazing, especially for a mass market offering. Mattel's method of re-use to cut costs in their DC figures is commendable, never compromising accuracy, but still using parts from other figures when it makes sense.

If I had to venture a guess, I'd say Slade's shoulders, hands, upper legs, crotch, and feet are re-uses, but they work just fine. The rest of his sculpt features loads of detail, what with the straps and the chainmail and the pouches. His head is particularly well done, with just enough definition under his mask to make out the features of his face.

His costume hasn't changed since his introduction. How many supervillains (or any comic character for that matter) can boast such staying power? Credit George Perez... or maybe don't give him so much credit since he also designed Marvel's Taskmaster (a mercenary master of combat and weaponry with an orange and blue color scheme and a penchant for flared boots) around the same time. Speaking of similar Marvel characters, it bears mentioning for the billionth time that a decade after Deathstroke's appearance, Marvel introduced Deadpool, a masked mercenary whose name is Wade Wilson. Nothing like Deathstroke (Slade Wilson) at all, right?

The paint scheme is Deathstroke's classic orange and blue, with some silver, gold, and brown accents where appropriate. The small details are all handled well, and while lots of pieces are molded in their appropriate color rather than painted, nothing feels cheap or half-assed. In fact, I can't prove it for certain, but it really appears as though the head is molded in both orange and blue plastic. For the life of me, I can't discern which half of the head is painted, and it really seems like it was molded in two-tone plastic. I could be wrong though, but kudos to Mattel for forcing me to scrutinize.

Articulation is standard DC Superheroes fare, which is to say "excellent." No one has been able to marry sculpt and articulation better than the Four Horsemen. They know just where the put articulation so that it really barely detracts from the sculpt at all. Deathstroke features a balljointed head, balljointed shoulders, peg biceps, hinged elbows, peg wrists, hinged chest, peg waist, pegged and hinged hips, peg thighs, hinged knees, and hinged ankles. No extraneous joints like invidual fingers or a midfoot hinge you'll never use, no ugly ball hips... Slade has just the right amount of articulation.

Mattel has actually been pretty good about giving appropriate accessories for its DC figures, and Deathstroke gets absolutely loaded. He gets a sword (with a removable sheath), a pistol (that fits in a working hip holster), a staff (that clips to his removable ammo bandolier), and an assault rifle (with a strap that allows it to hang across his back). The assault rifle is a bit flimsy, and I've heard it's prone to being warped right out of the package. Thankfully, however, mine had very little warping. It's also a bit perplexing that he comes with two guns and has no sculpted trigger finger. I'm betting that's thanks to the whole re-used hands thing, but was it too much to ask for at least one unique hand? Also, his sword sheath falls off his belt way too easily.

So he's not perfect. But he's damn near close. He's an excellent, excellent figure... now all you have to do is find one. Good luck with that.

...but wait, there's more! Firstly, he comes with the right arm of Solomon Grundy, this series' Build-A-Figure. It's a big ol' raggedly arm and it's got a balljoint at the shoulder, a peg bicep, a hinged elbow, and a peg at the sleeve.

...but wait, there's more (part two)! Mattel loves cramming in variants (or in the case of the Movie Masters Dark Knight line, imaginary variants). Deathstroke and Sinestro, the villains of Series 3 (not counting Grundy), pulled the lucky variant straws. Unlike other superbad fictional mercs like Firefly and Boba Fett, Slade has no qualms showing his face, and his unmasked look is almost as iconic as his Florida-Gators-meets-Spider-Man mask.

Slade's shaggy white hair and goatee are on full view, as well as his trademark eyepatch. Otherwise, the figure is "identical" to the standard version, although owning two nearly identical figures shows how much individual figures can vary from one to the other. For example, Variant Deathstroke's sword sheath appears to be permanently attached to his belt, as opposed to the standard release that falls off far too easily. My variant's rifle is also the more warpy of the two, and for some reason, the rifle strap on the variant seems to be glued at both ends, while the standard release features a strap connected to pegs that can still move freely, allowing the gun to store much more naturally across his back.

Much has been made of the flimsier plastic used in these figures, but I don't see much difference. They're far sturdier than some of the later ToyBiz Marvel Legends, and they don't feel fragile at all. The joints required some freezer time to free up, but I live in one of the most humid states in the nation, and freezer time is actually a fairly regular occurrence for my figures. Also, they were in my hot car trunk for hours before I opened them. Either way, both Slades are totally worth getting, as long as you can find them at retail or someplace similar (like a local comicshop that won't gouge you). As of this writing, however, finding either of these figures (particularly the variant) at retail is tricky. Mattel just can't seem to get a handle on it... they have great figures, they just need to get them in the hands of collectors. And, hey, kids too... why not?

-- 09/11/08

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