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Atom

DC Universe Classics
by yo go re

No, no no, no, no, no, no NO NO!

Sorry, Lex Luthor can say this better than I ever will:

Al Pratt was an unlikely choice for a boxer, much less a costumed crime fighter; however, the "98 pound weakling" and college student became an American hero. Devoid of super powers, Pratt nevertheless fought crime as The Atom and was a founding member of the Justice Society of America and All-Star Squadron. It wasn't until he was exposed to radioactive elements that Pratt changed into a bona fide super-powered hero.

Let's get this out of the way right up front: the Atom's defining character trait was that he was short! Way shorter than not only other heroes, but the average man on the street. He stood 5'1", so in a 6"-scale line he should be slightly over 5" tall. Mattel, meanwhile, has just gone with one of the basic bodies they use for everything, meaning that this figure is a fundamental failure from the outset. Congratulations on yet another irredeemable cock-up, Matty! We knew you could do it!

And the thing is, they were already molding new parts for him. Atom was created back when the directive for a masked man was to look like a circus strong man or a wrestler, so his "costume" involves a V-necked shirt, wristbands and leather shorts. The figure's forearms and lower chest are new molds, because they get fully sculpted buckles. The sculpt there is really nice, too: the leather around the straps pulls and stretches just like the real stuff would, so the buckles look truly fantastic. It really does make us wish that the edges of his costume were sculpted rather than painted, however; you've got these fully realistic buckles, then everything else is perfectly smooth.

The paint is vibrant. The Atom's costume isn't one that lends itself to the recent trend of "realistic" looks, so if they'd tried for natural tones it wouldn't look right. The silver is applied cleanly on the buckles. The yellow sleeves blend into the arms, which would be helped by sculpted edges. His eyes are silvery white, and there's no spillage against the blue hood.

The figure has all the usual DCU Classics articulation: he moves at the ankles, knees, thighs, hips, waist, wrists, elbows, biceps, shoulders and neck. His cape hangs straight down his back and reaches as far as his ankles - which means that even if you wanted to take him down to a more appropriate height, you'd have to customize the cape as well as cutting 1¼" out of his legs. We really must repeat, the height is a problem. This guy is supposed to be shorter than Wolverine - shorter than Depression-era teenagers! - but here he is looking Superman in the eye. It's just a symptom of Mattel's seemingly ceaseless negligence towards the properties they license.

Atom comes with the head and crotch of this series' build-a-figure, S.T.R.I.P.E. We actually get some paint apps on the head: red eyes, and a slightly more silver patch over the top of the head. Considering that STRIPE is a big suit of armor, this is a case where just having the head might work: imagine the guy inside took it off to have a sandwich or something.

Objectively, taken by himself, the Atom is a good figure. He uses a body that's suitably muscular, and the new pieces are done exceptionally well. But we can't take this figure by himself: he's part of an entire line of toys and an entire universe of characters, and he has a specific place in both of them. Once again, Mattel took the easy way out, and once again it resulted in a subpar offering. On the other hand, this is the first DCUC figure that's even close to being in scale with the stupidly oversized MotU Classics. If you're building a JSA rather than building STRIPE, skip this figure and buy the more budget-friendly DC Direct version(s) instead.

-- 12/21/11


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