The announcement of official Batman Lego sets was met with mixed feelings from fans: one one hand, we'd be sure to get some awesome vehicles, and Batman could have a crossover with our Spider-Man movie Legos; on the other hand, that meant the clever little loophole that Art Asylum had exploited to get around DC Direct's crapass Pocket Superheroes had just been closed. What was a loyal fan to do? Celebrate the coming of great DC building sets, or mourn the premature passing of DC Minimates? Well, eventually DCD revealed that they'd soon be licensing Minimates of their own, so those who had the Lego sets on embargo could finally lighten up. And just in time, too, since Lego's largest current Bat-set is hitting shelves.
Now, there was a Batcave set in Art Asylum/Play Along's C3 line, but it had definite problems. As in, "the damn thing wouldn't stay together." It was so bad that Play Along offered a free "repair kit" through its website, not that that helped things much. The design of their building sets was inherently flawed, and nothing short of a complete overhaul would have made things stable. Still, if you did manage to get it together, the design was nice and there were some very cool play features, so Lego had a lot to live up to. Did they manage?
The Batcave is built from more than 1,000 pieces and divided into three sections: the main ops center, a dock and a containment room. The set is constructed from three main colors of bricks - black, grey and gray - giving it the appropriate "Batman" feeling. It's much darker than its C3 competition, that's for sure. There are also two vehicles and seven minifigures. This is a bad mofo set!
The ops center is the centerpiece of the set (both literally and figureatively) and the largest segment,
so we'll start there. The Batcave is two stories tall, and the higher half here is the famous batcomputer. Bringing new meaning to the term "widescreen display", the monitor is actually three sections wide, with two half-sized screens flanking a large display. Stickers show us what Bruce is studying: Two-Face, his scarred coin, a street map of Gotham City (with the current location of Commissioner Gordon), an alert that the Batsignal has been lit, a gas bomb, a playing card and the Joker. Little bit of retro flavor here, in that the readouts are all in shades of green, like a late-'80s Apple.
There are two work stations (with swivel chairs) on either side of a lab table, where a small collection of evidence is laid out for examination:
a blue gemstone, a sample of Joker's fingerprints under a real magnifying glass and, in a nifty little reference to the Batcave of the comics, a tiny green T-rex. Okay, yes, the one in the comics is a couple stories tall, and this on only comes up to eye level because it's on a table, but it's still cool that they threw it in. In the center of the room is a flip-open table/storage locker that you can dump all the extra weapons in. The handle of the lid looks like a phone receiver, so you can pretend it's the batphone, if you want. On one side of the "room" is a Joker bomb under glass, while the other side has a samurai sword displayed on a nice stand.
A guard rail warns of the edge of this level, and a spiral staircase descends deeper into the cave. There's not much down here,
save some supports for the upper tier, but the blocks used for the rear wall are jagged and uneven, really selling the idea that this is a natural cave. A short walkway extends from the base of the stairs out to a huge turntable for the Batmobile. A ramp drops down off the right, and a protruding gear in the front allows you to spin the table. The assembly can get hung up underneath if you don't get all the studs in place tightly, so watch that. There are floodlights around the base, and a few shining down on the computer stations. Two racks of tools wait in the back.
Moving to the right, we have Bruce's costume storage and quick-change compartment - a rotating closet with translucent, fold-open pod bay doors.
In case anybody gets too close to the suit, a trap door drops them down a level into what might be a jail cell. It's got bars on three side, but the back wall looks like a sewer tunnel. You can't really keep intruders contained when they can just wander off to the nearest manhole or storm grate, and you can't use that as a secret entrance when it's surrounded by iron bars. What's the point? One awesome feature, though - upstairs you've got a bit of weight equipment. It's just a single barbell (loaded down with some huge weight), but it takes up space and it shows the designers were thinking.
We move, next, to the left of the main segment. Each of the three pieces is connected on the top level by a rope bridge thing, made by using Lego ladders and simple rods.
The bridges attach to rotating blocks, so you're not locked into one single position for your display. Modular! To light both of these side pieces, Bruce has installed torches, rather than electric lights.
This bit of cave has a huge weapon on the top level, for some reason. Is Bats planning to shoot at his own equipment? That's just sillly. It's actually a two-fer: there's a springy missile launcher that flings a heavily padded projectile an impressive distance, and a plunger-activated net launcher. There's a batsignal on the remaining bit of the assembly, but it doesn't do anything - just decorative. The whole weapon rotates freely, but you have to use a gear to tilt it up or down. WWII anti-aircraft emplacements could reacquire a moving target faster than this thing can. A ladder comes down from here to the lower level, where there's a dock for the Batboat(s), which brings us to the vehicles.
There's a Batboat in another set, but that was more of a Batpontoon boat or a Batbarge.
The one here looks like the one from the end of Batman and Robin, with big skis on the bottom. There's only room for one in the cockpit, but the design looks really swank. It's got a split front with gattling guns on the prongs. The skis are reused Bionicle pieces, and there are curved blocks all over the ship to keep its sleek lines. The back end's got a rocket engine, like all good Batmobiles should, and a big pair of wings curve back from the roof. The Batboat (Batskiff?) is 9 1/2" long and 5 3/4" wide.
For times when the Batboat is too wide or too flashy, the set includes a tiny one-man jet ski in red and green - Robin's colors. The Robinski isn't much more detailed than the type of thing you might find instructions to build in one of those value buckets, but it's only about 3" long - what more do you want? There's a gun mounted on the front, but given Batman's non-lethal techniques, it's probably just a stun gun or shoots rainbows or something.
Finally, proving it's a bad idea to have easy water access to your base, we get a submarine. Not a Batsub, but a Penguin sub. In fact, the Penguin sub.
It's a smaller scale, of course, but this is the same design as the war surplus submarine - pre-atomic model - the Navy sold to some chap named P. N. Guinn in the 1966 Batman movie. It's got an orange beak in the front, black wings sticling out the sides and real moving flippers around the propeller! So awesome! That movie is so cheesy, but the Lego folks paid it service with this toy! you have to love that. The sub has a working periscope (that is, it raises, lowers and turns, not that it actually reflects images) and there's enough room inside for at least one figure. And that brings us to the next segment of our review.
As we said, the set includes seven Minifigures: Batman, Robin, Bruce Wayne, Alfred, the Penguin, Mr. Freeze and a henchman. Now, this is the main reason that so many people were unhappy with Lego getting the DC line - Minimates beat Lego minifigs in every way, hands down. To think that these little dorks were our only option for small DC characters from here on out? It was sad. These aren't bad figures, it's just that we've had better.
All the Lego minifigs move at the same seven points: neck, shoulders, wrists and hips. Well, all but Penguin, who's got the short "Yoda" legs to make him tinier than everybody else - even Robin. All the sets that come with a Henchman figure use the same design - scruffy-lookin' guy, wearing sunglasses and a watch cap - but give them different colored shirts depending on who they're henching for. The one in this set wears blue, suggesting that one of Freeze's guys is piloting Penguin's sub.
Freeze is pretty cool himself,
with a clear helmet to keep him chilled and a freeze gun that connects to his backpack. The set also includes a two-piece ice trap that's just big enough to put a figure in, so you can play that Mr. Freeze zapped them. Of course, a lot of Freeze's pieces come from the old Outer Space and Undersea themes, but he just looks so perfect that you'll probably never notice. Or care.
Penguin has a top hat and, of course, his umbrella.
He's got white hands to suggest his stylish gloves, and they even painted the little silver monocle on his face. It's a shame they couldn't find a way to make his nose or his cigar, but you just can't get three dimensions from a flat face. While the henchman is working for Freeze, Penguin brought his own help: three gun-toting penguins. They're cute little guys, but deadly with those revolvers.
We were supposed to get an Alfred with the C3 Batcave, but that didn't happen, so it's nice that Lego came through. Since one of his duties is to look after Bruce, he's got a serving tray with a goblet and a mug. He's wearing a suit, of course, but it's distinctly different from the one Bruce is wearing. Bruce, in fact, looks like a completely generic minifig from any city set - the better to blend in with a crowd and not draw attention to himself.
Robin's looking good, with his big Elvis-style hair. Thankfully, they made his legs green, so you know he's not wearing hotpants.
It had to be cold in the batcave in those things. The Batman design needs some work, however. Lego made his mask a removable piece, but at this small size, that makes it look like a huge bucket. The eyeholes don't match up with the eyes on the head, so they painted this weird white stripe across his forehead. It looks like he's wearing a sweatband.
The set includes a selection of batarangs and a few guns, as well as a zipline the figures can slide down. Batman and Robin have cloth capes and can fit in their vehicles well. Overall, this is an excellent set, and a lot more stable than the C3 Batcave. In fact, the only thing that one has to recommend it above Lego's version is that it has a small section of stately Wayne Manor. Yes, the Lego cave costs twice as much as Art Asylum's did, but with the difference in price comes a real difference in quality, and this one is worth it. And since DCD will be releasing Minimates, eventually you can have some decent figures crawling around the cave.
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