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Ocean Warrior Aquaman

DC Universe Classics
by Poe Ghostal

For some reason, DC Comics has an abundance of iconic characters they have no idea what to do with. So they subject them to reboot after retcon after reboot, never giving them a chance to build a full-fledged character and mythology before they're off in another direction again. Hawkman is probably the best (worst?) example, but even the likes of Wonder Woman have found themselves subjected to major reboots.

Found abandoned, Prince Orin of Atlantis was raised in the ways of the surface world and renamed by lighthouse keeper Arthur Curry. But in the water was where young Arthur truly thrived. In adulthood, he took the name "Aquaman" and used his aquatic abilities to patrol the seven seas. The Aquatic Avenger's renown soon earned him a place amount the newly assembled Justice League of America.

In 1986, in the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths (which would set DC on a course of obsessive preoccupation with continuity for more than 20 years, a process that's still ongoing), Aquaman got a well-received four-issue limited series written by Neal Pozner and illustrated by Craig Hamilton. Hamilton's distinctive redesign of Aquaman's outfit, featuring a much more logical (if less iconic) color scheme of blacks, blues and whites, only lasts as long as the series' brief run. However, it has remained a fan-favorite since, and now Mattel has given this version of Aquaman (which they're calling "Ocean Warrior" Aquaman) his first-ever action figure.

Aquaman is a straight repaint of the basic "buff male" body. Since this version of Aquaman didn't even have gloves or fins on his calves, there's not a single bit of unique tooling on him, and the head is just a re-use of the one from classic Aquaman. Boring? Well, kind of, yeah. How good you think the sculpt is will depend on how good you think the basic body is. And as usual, there's that unsightly filled plug in the back. The head sculpt is still great, though.

While the sculpt is boring, think the paints are well-applied. If you like the Hamilton Aquaman, you'll be very happy with this figure. The wavy blends of blue, black, and white are so sharp and well-defined I'm wondering whether they're really paint or were tampographed on. Various parts of the figure are molded in the dominant color of that part of the body - black for the lower right leg, dark blue for the torso and so forth. Since they tend toward darker shades, there's none of the toy-ishness that plagues brighter characters like Kid Flash.

Aquaman features the usual DCU Classics articulation: balljoints at the neck and shoulders, swivels at the waist, wrists, biceps and lower thighs, and hinges at the elbows, knees, ankles, and abdomen, with an H-hinge at the hips to allow for a balljoint-like range of motion. However, watch out for serious problems with the neck joint. I thought Mattel had learned its lesson with dynamic in-package posing... because of the odd way Aquaman is hunched in the package, my Aquaman's head was completely locked in a "looking up" position. I ended up applying excessive force to try and get it moving and it broke at the peg.

I fixed it, after much Dremeling to get the stupid ball inside the neck out (and trust me, that thing was pretty much a part of the figure - it wasn't moving at all), by sacrificing a Superman Blue for his neck peg. But the whole thing was very annoying, and killed what little fondness I'd been developing for the figure. Apparently this problem is fairly common, so if you pick up this figure (and you'll probably have to, for his Atom Smasher part), be very careful with the neck. Of course, many fans report getting figures without even a hint of a problem, so who knows what you'll pull out of the package?

Aquaman comes with an Atom Smasher piece and the same trident we've seen in the previous two releases. Given that he's mostly a cheap repaint, it's not surprising, but as nice as the trident is, I wouldn't mind getting something - anything - else to give the figure a bit more added value. Maybe a sea-themed sword? The Atom Smasher piece is the torso, so there's no avoiding it. It's mostly red, with a blue neck and blue panel on the stomach, and a black atomic symbol tampoed on the chest. He's wearing a golden belt, has grey bands around his throat, and has an ab crunch with an average range of motion.

I'm still mad about that neck joint, and it cost Aquaman dearly. Add to that the fact that he's just a repaint - and not a particularly popular one at that - and having to buy this figure for the Atom Smasher part pretty much amounts to extortion.

The best part? This particular Aquaman - and not, say, the hard-to-find, mega-popular, iconic classic one who actually resembles the character shown in fan-​favorite cartoon Batman: Brave and the Bold - will be the one reissued in future "Best of" and "World's Greatest Super Heroes" re-​releases. 10 bucks says they don't even fix the dynamic in-​package pose, meaning there will be hundreds of thousands of ready-to-break Aquamans out there. It's the Wonder Woman situation all over again.

-- 12/02/09

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