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Orion & Lightray

DC Universe Classics
by Poe Ghostal

Don't you hate it when you buy a DVD right when it comes out, only for the "super special director's cut mega edition with a free puppy and a coupon for a bikini wax" to come out for five bucks more a few months later?

Wait, that needs some set-up.

Think about Mattel's DC Universe two-packs. They're a Toys Я Us exclusive, but so they ended up being much more plentful than Wal*Mart's borderline-mythical series. The four packs are Cyborg Superman and Mongul, Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) and Azrael, Hal Jordan (first appearance) and Abin Sur, and the subject of today's review, Orion and Lightray. The first four are re-releases of DC Superheroes figures.

This was the only pack I was interested in. I've got the first four figures and didn't feel like I needed another Hal Jordan or a figure of Abin Sur, who was alive for about five minutes in the DCU before giving his ring to Jordan. But Lightray was a brand-new figure, and while Orion is mostly a re-release of the DCU1 figure, he has a spiffy new removable helmet - hence my labored DVD metaphor that began this review!

Mattel and the Four Horsemen have been doing very well by the New Gods. We've already gotten Darkseid, and Mister Miracle and Kalibak are part of Series 6. Big Barda and two different Parademons are also on the way.

Orion and Lightray hail from New Genesis and part of Jack Kirby's short-lived "Fourth World" comic line from the 1970s. As members of the New Gods, they're far more powerful than your average human. The box these guys come in is enormous - it's taller than the regular DCU cards. The background art appears to be the same as the DCU1 cards, so there's no Lightray illustration. All the packaging does seem like a bit of a waste, and I wonder whether it could have been smaller. However, I do like the dynamic way the figures are posed in the packaging, and I can't deny it's very eye-catching. The graphics definitely pop.

When Highfather and Darkseid, the leaders of New Genesis and Apokolips, agreed to a treaty, part of the pact directed the leaders to trade their sons. Orion, son of Darkseid, was therefore raised on New Genesis, the planet of light. Ultimately, he jointed the Justice League and helped defeat his tyrannical father.

As mentioned, the Orion figure is mostly a re-release of the first figure, with one important difference: he now has a removable helmet. Underneath the helmet is the handsome redheaded "O'Ryan," the face he uses when going incognito on Earth or walking around New Genesis. As Fourth World fans know, this face is a lie; Orion's true face is ugly and cracked, reflecting his Apokoliptian heritage.

While the Horsemen did a great job of capturing Kirby's depiction of Orion in the original comics (note the way the hair curls back over the forehead - very Kirby-esque), it does suffer from RHS - Removable Helmet Syndrome, which is when a figure's head is a bit narrow in order to prevent the removable helmet from looking too large.

The reason this happens is simple: a removable helmet on a 6" figure is, proportionally, a lot larger and thicker than an actual helmet would be on a 6' man, and so if the head were sculpted properly, the helmet would look huge. Since the Horsemen assumed - properly - that most fans would display Orion with the helmet on, they decided to make the head just a bit narrow. (He looks kind of like Prince Lir from The Last Unicorn animated film... but I digress.) Still, I like the look of Orion without the helmet, and would have no problem displaying him that way.

The good news is I like this Orion's helmeted look even more than the DCU1 version. There are a few notable differences: the eye slits are narrower, the wings are tighter, and Orion's mouth is open a bit. All of these touches, while small, make the two-pack Orion look a bit more like the character as he was drawn by Kirby. Oddly enough, the helmet too seems narrower than the DCU1 head, despite being a removable piece.

The paint applications on the two-pack Orion are about as good as the DCU1 Orion - meaning there's probably a little too much of a black wash for my taste, although the wash does do a good job preventing the "toyish" look you get with figures molded in red plastic like Red Tornado.

Like the original release, Orion comes with his golden "Astro-Harness." The harness appears to be identical to the one from DCU1. It's filled with Kirby-style details and even has a few movable parts; unfortunately, the shoulder-mounted Mother Box is still not removable.

And now, confession time: my two-pack Orion's hips were very stuck, and rather than spend an hour on the freezer trick, I decided to just do a head-swap with my DCUC1 Orion. I suspect a good number of collectors out there will be able to do the same if necessary.

Lightray is the shining star of New Genesis and a high-spirited New God. He is cheerful and optimistic, preferring to solve problems through compromise rather than combat. He uses the speed of light to his advantage in eluding foes. As Solis, his idea of fun is protecting New Genesis from Apokolips, Darkseid, and his minions.

This is a brand-new figure, and while he's mostly just a repaint of the basic "large male" DCUC body, he does have some unique tooling aside from his head. His golden belt and gauntlets are new, as is his collar. But the sculpt wouldn't be nearly as impressive were the paint applications just as good. While it's common knowledge Mattel has had some QC issues with this line, my Lightray's paint applications are excellent, particularly the eyes, hair, chest emblem and the black trim on his boots. There's not much slop or bleed (although I notice some in the close-up of Lightray's face - keep in mind, most figures don't look as good when magnified that much).

Lightray has the most Kirby-esque head sculpt I've seen this side of DC Direct's recent New Gods series. Kirby's characters always had a unique facial look, particularly during his 1970s period, and somehow the Horsemen managed to capture that while ensuring the figure still looked fine alongside the other DCUC characters. This is probably as close to an artist-specific sculpt we've seen from the Horsemen in this line.

Lightray has no accessories. It would have been nice to have gotten a new Mother Box for him to hold, particularly when this set goes for $22 at retail.

Overall, though, I'm happy with this set. I hope in the future we can get a TRU exclusive with not one, but two brand-new figures, but in this case I'm actually happy to have the new Orion.

-- 09/12/09


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