In the early days, Batman got around town in a completely average car. But a legend began in Batman #5 with the simple addition of a bat-shaped hood ornament. And a name. Can't forget the name. That red convertible was was the very first Batmobile, and today you'd have to be crazy to try marketing a Batman toy line without a Batmobile to accompany it; something Lego obviously recognized, giving us the car of cars in their very first assortment.
Actually, they gave us two - the standard one, in this set, and one that's more like a dragster or suped-up tractor in the set with Catwoman. But since that one's so ridiculously goofy, this is the one to get. There's also a third "Ultimate Collector's Edition," but it's more of a model than a toy (and costs $70), so we're not counting it.
This Batmobile, nearly 10" long, is modeled slightly after the one from the two Tim Burton films, with the big turbine engine and the dual fins rising behind the cockpit. The body is contoured, bulging up over the fenders and dipping down in the mid-body. The running boards dip in behind the front tires, and the nose curves down to angular headlights. A jet rests in the back between the tail lights, like on any good Batmobile, and the interior is detailed with all sorts of technological gear.
The extra features are nice. The tires are real rubber around a plastic wheel, so they spin freely. The golden color of the hubcaps stands out nicely from the black-on-blacker that is the car's paint scheme.
There are four translucent orange flame pieces shooting out of the jet in the back, but you can, of course, remove them when the Batmobile is parked back at the cave. The canopy opens so you can put Batman behind the wheel, and there's enough room in there for him to sit comfortably even with his cape on. The trunk is hinged, to store the included batarangs. The engine block doubles as a secret weapon, firing one of those big, padded missiles Lego loves so much all of a sudden. Amazingly, the car looks just as good with the projectile in place as it does when it's been shot across the room.
There's one really stupid part of the building process - one of the steps has you attach a long, single-stud wide red brick to the underside of the car. Nothing is built on it, and the pieces it attaches to are already connected, and then one of the final steps has you remove it. What's going on, Lego? You guys are usually really good with the instructions (well, it wouldn't hurt if you'd highlight the blocks added in each step, so we don't find a missing piece nine steps later), but an unnecessary step that's negated later? What's the point? It's always easier to build these big sets when the plastic bags holding the pieces are numbered, as is the case with the Batmobile - putting together the Batcave took longer than it should have because of those randomized baggies.
Lego has said that every Batman set they release will include the man himself, but that they'll also have at least one villain in the box. In toy-speak, that's "instant conflict role-play," a high-falootin' way of saying "the good guys have somebody to beat up." In fact, most of the sets have multiple baddies. Since this one's called Two-Face's Escape, you can probably guess who to expect.
It seems that Two-Face has just robbed the Gotham bank
in a purloined armored truck. The truck is 5 1/4" long, and it's obviously been in Harvey's possession for a while, because he's had time to make some modifications. For starters, it's two colors, just like him - one side white, one side grey. There are Lego-fied representations of his scarred coin on the roof and side panels, and blasters fold out of the sides of the truck. This thing would be a cool little set by itself. If Lego was smart, they'd sell these "hero vs. villain" bundles in stores, but offer the baddies (and their accessories) individually through their website.
The getaway van has a pretty cool play feature: the back door and roof are on a single pivot - press the door in, and the roof lifts. So why's that cool? Remember that the Batmobile fires a missle; launched at the fleeing vehicle, it pops the roof quickly, flinging anyone riding up there into oncoming traffic. Pretty harsh way to dispatch an enemy, Bruce. The feature works perfectly (as long as you hit the target) and is entirely unobtrusive. Granted, there's no storage space inside the armored car, now, but we can deal. While most of the other vehicles have hinged access, you have to take the roof off the truck to get anyone behind the wheel.
There's even a little bit of scenery to play with: wherever Two-Face is escaping from has a security gate. There's a streetlight on one side, a stop sign on the other, and the guard arm actually raises and lowers. It's a very simple piece, but it looks neat and adds a bit to your display. Finally, we get a spike strip on a chain, the same sort that police departments use to flatten tires and bring fugitives to a halt. Who else would have ever thought of an accessory like that? Nobody but Lego.
This set does have minifigures, of course, though they are the weakest point. It's not that there's anything specifically flawed about them, just that we've seen better. Compared to DC Minimates, Lego minifigs are strictly low-rent. It's hard to take a step back to a 1 1/2"
figure that moves at the Big Five when you know the excellence of a 2" figure with 14 points of articulation. However, DC hasn't made Minimates of all these folks, so these will have to tide you over until then.
We begin with our black-clad Batman, who looks like he's got a bucket on his head, thanks to the removable mask they gave him. It really would have been better if they'd just molded a new head with the bat-ears on it. Because his eyes don't line up with the slits in the mask, Bruce has a big white stripe on his forehead. Lego has recently started following Kubricks' lead, by putting different facial expressions on both sides of the figures' heads, so why don't we get that for Batman? You could have the big white eyes on one side, and a normal Bruce Wayne face on the other. Of course, then they'd have to include a hair piece to pop on when he's maskless, but it would still be cool and add a bit more playability.
The villain in this set is, in case you forgot, Two-Face. The former district attorney is looking quite nice in brick form. His suit is half white, half black, and his shirt is split similarly beneath it. He's got grey hands, suggesting gloves, and the scarred side of his face is purplish-gray. The hair piece is a new mold, with slicked-back black hair on his right and wild white hair on his left. Included in this set is a round, single-stud block molded in a silvery plastic: it's his coin! How cool is that? Yes, Lego has existing coins
that they use in some of their sets, but those are in sets of four and the figures can't really hold them. By making it a block, you can snap the coin on Two-Face's hand and pretend he's just caught it after a flip.
Like Mr. Freeze, Harvey's got a henchman. Yes, sadly, he has only one henchman - that doesn't seem like him at all. Maybe the other one got gunned down during the robbery? Maybe Batman already trussed him up and left him for the cops? Maybe you can to write to Lego and get them to send you a second one. All the henchmen in these sets have the same basic design: a scruffy-looking guy in a watch cap and a color-coordinated shirt. Lego screenprints the details on their minifigs, so it always looks perfect, but it does have problems - since they can't go over the corners, both Harvey and the Henchman have white showing through the black half of their clothes. The figure's left side and shoulder are white, while the chest and back are black. It's kind of annoying, really, but you can fix it quickly with a big black Sharpie.
Two-Face's Escape is one of the mid-priced sets in this first series, but it's pushing the higher end of that spectrum. However, you get two vehicles, three figures and a bit of landscape for your money. Heck, with a little work, you can even get the Minimate Batman behind the wheel of the Batmobile, wedding the best building blocks with the best block figures for a marriage of cubic goodness.
What's your favorite version of the Batmobile? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.