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Justice League
by Rustin Parr


King of the Seven Seas, Arthur Curry was called to the surface world when Lex Luthor devised a scheme to take control of sea life. He allied himself with Superman to confront Luthor, and eventually became an active member of the Justice League Unlimited.

The JLU toyline originally featured only figures and designs seen on the half-hour Justice League Unlimited tv show, or its earlier one-hour format Justice League, as one might expect. However, following the show's demise and the continued fan (and Target stores) support Mattel has redirected the line into a more omni DC animated line. They've gone into the '80s with Super Friends-based figures and have reached into the various animated Batman and now Superman series. This figure, for example, comes the third season of Superman: The Animated Series, specifically the 1999 episode "A Fish Story."

The design of the character was semi-controversial (among the fanbase that takes things that seriously) because it featured the Silver Age, aka "orange shirt," outfit as opposed to the then current hook-handed, bare-chested, pauldron wearing, longhaired look. When JL came around they gave us that version of the character, but I've been waiting all this time to see this version, the real Aquaman, and surprisingly Mattel more than exceeded my hopes.

Contrary to the prototype shown at SDCC '09, which was a repainted version of a previous Aquaman figure (an odd bastardization of styles - long hair plus orange shirt? Madness!), this figure is almost 100% all new. In fact the only reused piece is the torso - the head, arms and legs are all brand new! That's practically unheard of for a JLU figure, let alone a single carded one!

The head is a pretty strong likeness to the STAS design and seems to be a bit harder with lines than the typical JLU figure, which is interesting since the definitive Bruce Timm style only got more angular over the years and this design pre-dated JL. The arms have the pointed gloves sculpted on, which rise slightly at the forearm for a clean, definitive seam. The legs are, like the head, notably angular and have the trademark calf-fins. Contrary to the previous Aquaman figures in the line, this legs do not have knee articulation and, unlike many other figures in the line, he stands very well of his own accord. This Aquaman's calf-fins are also much larger than his predecessor's, which is actually more a comment on how small the previous were.

The legs are cast in green plastic and the paint used on the gloves and lower torso match remarkably well. The belt is simply painted on in borderless yellow while the "A" buckle is outlined in black. The eyes even have the whites painted in, a very subtle but very much appreciated touch. But by far the best part is the orange plastic the torso and arms at cast in. It has a mild pearlescent sheen to it which really makes the shirt pop and the figure stand out on the shelf. It's an excellent touch to a great figure.

As if all that wasn't enough, he even has an accessory - his kingly trident. I'm pretty certain this is the same one that was released with a single carded Aquaman way back when, but who cares, its looks great with this guy. The trident is cast in semi-reflective gold, which not only complements the color palette well, it helps bring out the sheen in the orange shirt to boot.

But with all Mattel products, Aquaman too must contain something aggravating, and this time it's the price. JLU figures are exclusive to Target and they've always seemed to vary between fairly successful and extreme pegwarmers. I think the main reason for this is bad lineups and lots of reissues, and while Mattel has seemed to have finally figured this out, it could well be too late. These figures have lasted because they're relatively inexpensive figures to make, typically using only new paint and a new head to create a new character, and having limited articulation means less molds and plastic is needed, but because of that they've only been able to really compete on shelves based on their low price point of $4.99. However, beginning with this series' release in February 2010, the price of a single figure was raised to a shocking $8.99. Not only is that almost doubling the previous price tag, that means these figures cost more than Star Wars, Iron Man, Marvel Universe, GI Joe, even DC Infinite Heroes and everything other line in the 3¾" size. I only got this figure because I am a slut for Aquaman product, but with a price that high I'm easily going to be spending my money on other figures whose more detailed sculpting and considerably higher amount of articulation makes them a far better deal than these figures.

Aquman is a fantastic figure and easily one of the best Mattel has done in the entire JLU run, but its value versus its price is low... frankly you have to really want this guy to for him to be worth the money.

-- 03/18/10

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