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Cheetah, The Shade and Lex Luthor

Justice League
by yo go re

Cheetah and the Shade are two of the first supervillians recruited by Lex Luthor to form the Injustice Gang and oppose the heroes of the Justice League. After Luthor is taken to jail, the group is reorganized by Gorilla Grodd into an even larger and more deadly super villian team called the Secret Society.

A longtime Wonder Woman foe, Cheetah was definitely reimagined for her appearance in Justice League. Rather than a mystical origin, her powers are a result of science: she was studying the possibilities of genetic animal augmentation for the purpose of improving human attributes, but when her funding ran out, she had to use herself as a test subject.

Shockingly, Cheetah gets a fully unique body, an incredible rarity for females in the Justice League Unlimited line: her arms end in hands that are both held open, with sharp claws, and there are tufts of fur on her shoulders and elbows; her legs have a wider stance, and feet that are clearly animalistic paws; and though her torso is the same basic sculpt as everyone else, it's remolded to accommodate a swivel joint for her tail. So nothing came from other figures.

And of course, her head is new, too. She looks like a cat-woman, with pointy ears, a broad, flat nose, and her mouth open to reveal her fangs. You can draw a straight line from her work to Batman Beyond's splicers. Her fur is a yellowy tan color, with spots that are slightly darker. The light fur on her belly is gloss, rather than matte, which is just weird.

The Shade was kind of a nothing character until James Robinson grabbed him for his mid-90s Starman series. That's when a generic thief with a cane that shot darkness became an immortal Victorian whose shadow powers were the result of an unexplained mystical event. See, this is why you don't randomly kill off even bad characters - it took 52 years for Shade to become someone worth reading about.

JLU's Shade seems to be based on his lamer, pre-Crisis version. He dressed like a dapper gentleman, but had a rough demeanor, and he relied on his cane to use his powers. He uses one of the standard male bodies, but gets a PVC coat over the torso to create his distinctive look. The cartoon knew that an all-black design wouldn't work in animation, so his shirt and his opera gloves were grey - the toy just goes for solid black.

The only color on the figure is his face, and that's glossy white. Seriously, what is up with Mattel and the glossy paints? It's a sinister face, but it's shiny. He's got little black glasses and a tall top hat, but you know what he doesn't have? His cane. An item he specifically needs, and Mattel doesn't include it. Should we really be surprised?

Lex Luthor was the first villain to get an action figure in the Justice League line, but that figure has nothing in common with this one. That was an original sculpt, showing Lex in his power suit (both kinds), with all sorts of crtoon-accurate details molded in. This is a generic sculpt with all the details painted on - except for the legs, which were clearly boots at one point (cf. Speedy, Vandal Savage).

Lex is wearing his prison jumpsuit, and even that's not right. For instance, it's orange - yes, that's the way we think about prison clothes now, but Justice League was homaging Luthor's 1950s appearances in the comics, so the uniform was gray. It has a V-neck rather than a collar, and he's wearing a white T-shirt beneath it (in the episode, he was barechested underneath). Plus, it's got short sleeves, rather than long. He did dress like this on the show, but not in the episode this set is based on. Also, what's with the silver on his wrists? Are those supposed to be handcuffs?

The head is not shared with Assault Armor Lex - it's previously been seen on some other Lexes. While the old head was a bit thin, making it look like it had been stretched vertically, this one is wide and round, like a big pumpkin. Which one is closer to the real look? Eh, neither. This one has a nice expresion, but the shape is wrong.

This is one of the better JLU threepacks. Shade was available by himself (with his cane), but Cheetah was never available anywhere else, and while there were plenty of Luthors, this is the only version in his prison jumpsuit. So even with the absent accessory, this set's a winner.

-- 07/15/15

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