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DC Universe Classics
by yo go re

Okay, enough waiting. If Poe's going to drag his feet, we'll move ahead with DCU Series 4. I summon the god of war!

A virtual outcast among the Greek Gods on Mount Olympus, Ares has plotted to destroy both the Olympians and the humans who worship them. In modern times, Ares plotted Earth's destruction with nuclear warheads, a plot foiled by Wonder Woman. He seeks only to sow dissent and destruction, and will not be content until mankind eradicates itself through war.

Geeze that's poor writing. They didn't overuse "plot" to the same extent Grey Hulk overused "constantly," but it's still really bad. You guys are aware it's okay to re-read things after you write them, right? Keeps you from looking, you know, unprofessional. Especially when it's the sort of mistake anyone with a sixth grade education would be able to not only catch, but also correct. Rather than plotting, then plotting a plot, he could plot, then orchestrate a scheme. Thesaurus!

Anyway, Ares is the villainous half of the DCU4 "archenemies" set. The first four series all offered one villain specifically intended to face off with the series' "big" hero: Batman and Penguin, Aquaman and Black Manta, Green Lantern and Sinestro, and now Wonder Woman and Ares.

Ares started out in 1942's Wonder Woman #1, and was one of her biggest foes all throughout the Pre-Crisis era. Of course, he wore orange armor and was called Mars, but he was the same guy. This figure, however, uses the vastly superior post-Crisis design, the one created by George Perez. Good choice, too: Perez's art is famous for its intricate level of detail, which means there's plenty for the Four Horsemen to work with. This isn't some perfectly flat costume painted onto the same generic body as every other perfectly flat costume (cf. pretty much any DCU figure chosen at random), this is an actual sculpture. Ah, what a relief!

As an immortal deity and the personification of bloodlust, Ares is logically bigger than the average figure. Counting the crest on his helmet, he stands more than 7½" tall. He's got the usual DCU joints, and shockingly, none of them were stuck or broken when I got him out of the package. The range of motion in his hips is severely blocked by his little skirt, but really, that just means that his single knee hinges aren't as disappointing as they might have been. The knees are made from a very soft plastic, but they show no signs of tearing or warping - he's certainly no Deathlok. Apparently all the Areses have been assembled incorrectly, with the upper arms attached to the wrong shoulders; it doesn't hurt the figure at all, and you can't really tell by looking at him, so it's nothing to care about.

The Horsemen did some great work on the armor. Not that they would usually do a bad job or something, but in the sea of sameness that is Mattel's DC Universe line, these little islands of individuality are real highlights. The breastplate looks like hammered metal, rather than the pebbly texture it's often drawn with - that's a plus, in case you couldn't tell. The detail on his forearms is wonderful, with armor made of interlocked skulls, held on by braided cords with three more tiny skulls where the strands cross. The style is matched by his greaves, though they are restrained to a single skull on each knee. Demonstrating an actual understanding of how armor works, there are small clamps sculpted over the seams in the suit. Astounding!

Ares' paint is good, a fine mixture of blues both flat and metallic. His skin is black, and his eyes are a dark red. Unfortunately, the black tends to obscure the intricate sculpt on his hands. Seriously, he's got sharp nails and fine lines on his palms, but you'll never see them unless you really get in there and look. For once, that's not a fault with Mattel's production process: it's something inherent in the design.

The figure gets two accessories, other than the requisite Despero BAF piece (the left leg, if you're curious). He has a mighty sword and a strange axe. You can really tell these were designed by the same guys who did He-Man's new Power Sword - they certainly don't look authentically Grecian. When DC Direct did an Ares a few years ago, his weapons were pretty plain, but these certainly aren't. There's a single hook on each side of his belt, so you can free up his hands: the axe has an actual sculpted strap on the bottom to hang it, and you can hook the hilt of the sword on there if you're careful.

In what has to be an action figure first, both major toy companies - Mattel and Hasbro - released their fully licensed versions of Ares at the same time in 2008. Hasbro, of course, did their version as the Build-A-Figure for their Wal*Mart-exclusive Legends series, but Mattel's version was a regular figure in his line (and obviously, much easier to find). Both characters are meant to be the literal mythological Greek god, so two companies released the same character at once. That kind of synchronicity is almost impossible to achieve, so it may be a once-in-a-lifetime achievement.

-- 05/21/09

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