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Superman/Lex Luthor

Justice League
by yo go re

The challenge of these Justice League and Batman reviews is finding new and exciting ways to rag on Mattel's chronic idiocy - repaints, variations and over-stocked cases of one or two main characters. Mattel relies so heavily on eight-year-old girls buying pair after pair of doll shoes that they give their "boys'" lines the status of second-class citizens, leaving those of us who would actually buy them to go home empty-handed.

As we've stated before, the Justice League line has been stupendously over-run with Batman and Superman figures. Out of the 22 Justice League figures available (six plain figures, two variants, two deluxe sets, two two-packs, four "Attack Armor" figures and three "Mega Armor" figures, as well as one figure included with a vehicle), 14 of those are either Batman or Superman. Two-thirds of Mattel's line features only two characters? That's wrong! We only have one villain so far!

At least that villain is a suitable foe for the League - Lex Luthor.

Driven mad by kryptonite poisoning, Luthor has turned his limitless genius and vast personal fortune to one goal - destroying Superman and the Justice League!

The Lex Luthor seen on The New Batman/Superman Adventures was based heavily on the comicbook incarnation that was developed in the late '80s: the ruthless business tycoon. Cool, calculating and looking down on the denizens of Metropolis from his highrise penthouse office, Luthor embodied the most duplicitous side of corporate industry. But by the time the new cartoon came around, that was a bit played out, so the producers needed to find a new angle.

Their idea? Mine Luthor's history and take the best from each era - in his one appearance on the cartoon, Luthor was seen in his '90s business suit, his gray '50s prison uniform, his Superfriends green and purple jumpsuit and even his late-70s power armor. All in all, it was pretty cool. He's now a lot like the original Lex Luthor, a mad scientist looking to destroy his enemies.

We never really got a "civilian" Lex Luthor figure in the old Hasbro figure lines, so this is a welcome addition to the animated universe. The base figure is dressed in his black button-down suit, though his face now looks more like (Insomniac host) Dave Atell's than the animated Luthor. He stands 4⅝" tall and moves at the Big Five, which is no surprise for this line.

The figure is actually called "Assault Armor Lex Luthor," so you know there has to be more going on than just the three-piece suit. Included in the package are four snap-on sections of bright green armor: the main body, the neck brace and both arms. Assembled, the armor looks quite nice, though it does leave Luthor's back wholly unprotected. It also ruins three points of articulation: once sealed into his armor, Luthor can only move at the shoulders.

Luthor would have been a great figure released by himself, but he's instead part of a two-pack. The other figure in this pair is - surpirse, surprise - Superman.

Superman, on the Justice League cartoon, is a bit more angular than before. This only serves to make him look elderly and thin, not powerful, though he apparently has been softened for the second season.

All the Justice League toys are taken from the same mold, so all eight (eight!) Supermen are exact duplicates of one another, with only paint app differences. The figure's head is ridiculously tiny and the sculpt, based on the model sheets for the first season, makes him look just as weak in plastic as he does on the cartoon. Plus, he stands only 4½" tall, so he's shrimpier than Luthor is! Now, there's nothing wrong with villains being larger than the heroes, but usually you'd expect that to be reserved for the ones that are a physical threat.

There's no official name for the gear this figure is sporting, since the packaging just calls him "Superman," but don't be fooled: you're not getting a plain vanilla Man of Steel. Superman comes with some ridiculous form of armor that consists of huge shoulder pads, a rocket launcher, a telescopic sight and some ridiculous shield thing that fits on his hand. It really is a useless hunk of ass, and even the toy looks embarrassed to be seen in it. And if you take the armor off, he's still wearing gray instead of blue for some reason, so he still looks wrong no matter what.

Though Lex would have been a better toy packaged by himself, not saddled with this mondo-retardo Superman to fight, Mattel still could have done this better. If they really wanted a two-pack of figures, why not make two villains? The other pack has Superman and Batman - they could have recycled their (admittedly quite nice) B:tAS Joker figure and offered a lot of value while still keeping costs down and giving more variety to this already lop-sided Justice League line.

-- 10/10/03

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