There's a Batman movie out this summer, and we know what that means for toy shops: endless waves of crappy Batman variants with glow-in-the-dark armour and stupid fluorescent spring-loaded cannons. Luckily Lego's latest (and well-timed) releases from their Batman line are here to take up the slack and provide us with something that isn't a steaming pile of not-good-enough.
This set contains the Batman, along with a movie-inspired (but not movie-accurate) Batcycle, up against everyone's favourite Joker groupie, Harley Quinn, who's getting around in style in a maniacal mechanical monster dubbed the "Hammer Truck." Pretty sure that's not in the movie either, but who cares.
The Batman figure is quite a neat piece of work. Inspired by the movie, it depicts the Batsuit in dark grey, with a functional-looking utility belt, segmented panels covering his abdomen, and a solid armour plate across his chest, bearing the ubiquitous bat-symbol. He has the same double-necked cape seen on figures like Darth Vader (though with a Batman-styled trailing edge) where two side-by-side loops fit over the neck one on top of the other, making the cape curve around the figure's back.
The way the head and helmet work (which has been used on previous Lego Batman sets, just not any I've bought) is especially clever: the face's eyes are level, with a solid line forming a frowning brow,
and coloured pure white above. Bare-headed (with the addition of a hair piece from some other set - obviously dark hair would be better, but for demonstration purposes the only one I had near to hand was Luke Skywalker, hence the sandy blond) the solid brow works, given that it's a cartoony face, and the white is a bit odd, but not too noticeable. What the white achieves is that when the Bat-mask is placed over the head, the eye holes, which are higher up than the face's eyes, are filled with pure white. It's quite a clever way of getting a perfect masked "face," and being able to make it work without the mask as well.
Harley's figure is more straight-forward, with all the body detail simply painted on, no cape or cloak, and the headpiece just fitting onto the head like a hat in the usual manner. She has a few painted contours on her body to suggest a feminine shape, but since they're only painted on the red segments, they're not very convincing, even by Lego standards. On the plus side, her face looks terrific - while it's a bit odd to see Gotham's grim guardian rendered in cutesy Lego fashion, Harley is right at home here.
Just because they're Lego people doesn't mean they don't get accessories - in fact, they're better off than most proper action figures. Batman gets three batarangs, the middle of which fits into his hand, and two stud-mounted bat-blades which will fit onto any given Lego post - there's nowhere on the Batcycle for them to go, but hey, I'm not complaining about extra accessories. As well as the selection of throwing weapons, Bats also gets a device
I've seen referred to as handcuffs, but it looks to me more like a zipline handle - string up a bit of thread and watch him go.
Harley gets a giant mallet, which is almost as obligatory as the batarangs are for Bruce. Rather than a single piece, the mallet is made from bits, which doesn't look as nice, but it much more Lego-y. She also gets two revolvers - standard-sized (for Lego, anyway), but presumably meant to represent her typical oversized pop guns. And to wrap it up, there's a bulky black handgun and a drum-magazine tommy gun.
But no one - well, no one in their right mind - buys Lego for the figures, because this is all about building things. The bulk of the set arrives in two plastic bags, one for the Batcycle, one for the truck, the latter about twice the size of the former. Obviously instructions are provided, though it's worth noting - irritatingly - that they skip the bit where each page shows you which pieces are being added at that stage. It's not a problem for the most part - these aren't exactly the most complex Lego sets ever devised - but with several pages adding pieces to several locations of the construct, it does mean you can easily skip a bit by accident and not notice until later.
That Batcycle is constructed in two basic chunks - the driver's "saddle" first, and then the wheels and frame, which the saddle then sits in between. The front wheel, or wheels rather, bring to mind the independent "catamaran" suspension on the Batmobile's front end, though unlike the Batmobile, the two wheels here are connected. The tires are rubber, but solid, so there's not much squish to them. On the back end there are a pair of exhaust pipes, which according to the instructions are meant to just stick out perpendicular to the frame they're attached to - meaning they keep getting bumped out of place,
because there's nothing stopping them from swivelling. The front of the box agrees with common sense, and has them swivelled up to rest against the rear chassis.
Batman himself stands in the saddle area - he could sit, but then the handlebars would by up at Harley Davidson altitude, so best not - and pleasingly, the handlebars are angled properly for angled Lego hands to hold when you swivel them sideways. It's a bit fiddly to get Bats into place, so what it's best to do is to pop the handlebars off, get them in his hands, and then put them and him onto the bike in one go. Aside from the rolling wheels, and the bat-wings on the back - which can rotate, but probably aren't intended to, unless they work like air brakes - the bike's action features are confined to a pair of side-mounted flick missiles. Thankfully there's a very shallow lip on them, so although they flick out of their "launchers" easily, they won't actually fall out on their own.
Up against the aerial rodent and his off-roader is Harley's truck, a very appropriate vehicle for her, since monster trucks are as lunatic as Harley herself is. Construction is pretty straight-forward, starting with building the I-frame and then adding first the upper chassis,
then the "suspension" (which is fake) and the big chunky wheels. Said wheels sport hollow rubber tires, which are a bit of a pain to get onto the hubs - there's a knack to it - but nice and bouncy once they're in place. Harley's distinctive red and black checkered pattern is repeated all over the truck, from the fake wishbone suspension on the bottom right up to the spoiler on the top (spoiler? This needs downforce?), and a selection of stickers add finer details, including Harley's diamond lozenges to the front and rear wheel arches, a big "hit me" button for the hammer, and a picture of Harley's beloved Mister J.
Speaking of the stickers, they're a bit of an irk with this vehicle. For one thing, the lozenge ones cover two separate pieces, which in a small way violates the fundamental Lego rule: after you build it, you should be able to unbuild it again. Plus, the top of the windscreen is a single black piece, with a black and red sticker giving it colour - it's resting on a solid six-wide peg plate, so why it couldn't have been separate red and black pieces, I don't know.
The Hammer Truck's main action feature is, of course, the ginormous hammer built into the middle of it. A handle sticking out the back rotates it from side to side, to smash down on anything in its path - the mallet head, mounted on its long arm, is quite heavy, so twirling it from side to side really makes the whole truck jump. Befitting Harley's sense of humour, the side of the mallet bears a "Whack-a-Bat" sticker.
The truck also has two flick missiles of its own - green, rather than Batman's yellow - and a loot box in the back, which the set provides a handful of coloured jewels to fill. There's only four of them, so it looks a bit empty - still, you can shove in the leftover transparent bits too, along with Harley's spare guns, and it fills up quite nicely. Slamming the mallet back and forth makes everything in the box bounce about - I haven't actually bounced anything out of it yet, but I'm sure it'll happen. Oh, and the ridiculous spoiler is mounted on a hinge, allowing it to work like an even more ridiculous air brake.
It's a fun set - the builds are pretty basic, but the final results, like many small Lego sets, work as toys as well as just model vehicles. And as alluded to before, Harley Quinn was practically born to be Lego - there's even a cute little mini-comic on the back of the box, which demonstrates how perfect a match it is. Speaking of perfect matches though, it's a bit annoying that now I have to go find the big (and expensive) Arkham Asylum set so Harley can have her Ivy to hang around with.