Sunday, January 29, 2012

I'm A Grown Man And I Bought This: Crime Syndicate Of America Box Set

If you're a comic book geek as I am, you'll know that the Crime Syndicate is the evil equivalent of the Justice League of America. They were originally located on Earth 3, a parallel planet where there were no superheroes, only supervillains. Eventually a sole superhero appeared to fight the endless hordes of villains: Lex Luthor. Cool idea, huh? From the era when comic books were actually fun to read.

I think the Crime Syndicate is now located on Earth 2. Why they changed it, I have no idea. Either it was part of some confusing multi-part storyline or the writer just forgot where they were from.

The Crime Syndicate box set is part of Mattel's DC Universe line, which has been around for a good five or six years now and has produced hundreds of cool figures from DC's history. I used to be an avid collector of this line, but around Wave 8 they started becoming impossibly hard to find, and the price tag for an individual figure ballooned to a ridiculous and astonishing $18! Ouch!

The box set contains figures of Ultraman, Owlman, Superwoman, Power Ring and Johnny Quick. It's a Walmart exclusive, so if you want one you'll have to put on your best pajama bottoms and venture there.

It also originally cost between $75 and $80, depending on the store. Sorry, Walmart and Mattel. That ain't gonna happen. I don't spend that much per week on groceries! There's honestly no reason this toy line should be so expensive. These figures are all basically repaints. The entire DC Universe line routinely uses three or four different basic body types, so all they did to design these figures is make five new heads. Certainly no reason to inflate the price to such levels.

Apparently I wasn't the only one suffering from sticker shock, as I saw this set on clearance at Walmart for a more reasonable $35, so I picked it up.

Anyhow, enough whining about the cost, and on with the reviews. First up in the set is Ultraman. Obviously the Earth 3 equivalent of Superman. He's not from Krypton though– he's human, given his super powers by an alien after he accidentally wandered into hyperspace.

Not a terribly exciting figure, but that's the fault of the source material.

Owlman is the evil twin of Batman. In the comics, the original Owlman wore a costume that looked pretty much identical to Batman's, except he wore an owl mask on his head. That was no doubt considered too campy for modern, serious comic readers. This version seems highly influenced by Night Owl from the Watchmen movie of a few years back.

Like Batman, Owlman has no actual superpowers and relies on his cunning and an array of high tech gadgetry.

This is probably my favorite figure of the lot. It's a cool design, there's lots of detail and the flexible "feathered" cape is a nice touch. One of the few figures that's not a simple repaint of an existing figure and actually required some effort on Mattel's part.

Next up is Superwoman, who's pretty obviously the counterpart of Wonder Woman. She has powers similar to those of Wonder Woman, with the addition of heat vision. According to the back of the box, Superwoman's magic lasso (which was not included in this box set- way to cheap out on accessories, Matell!) not only forces people to tell the truth, but also to reveal embarrassing secrets about themselves. Um... aren't those pretty much the same thing? Isn't the truth sometimes embarrassing?

Superwoman is a little more S&M than I'm used to seeing in the toy aisle, what with her shiny vinyl bustier and all, but what do I know. My figure came with a wonky left leg that makes for some strange poses. I think it might have resulted from the plastic tray warping her leg over a period of months. I'd be royally pissed if I'd paid full price for this set.

Power Ring is the evil equivalent of the Justice League's Green Lantern. Unlike our Green Lantern, his super-powered ring is not alien in origin, it was given to him by a Tibetan monk named Volthoom. Wha.... ? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say with confidence that Volthoom is not a traditional Tibetan name.

This is a prime example of why these figures shouldn't cost as much as they do. This is basically the regular Green Lantern figure with a different paint job and a tiny mask added to his face.

Once again, this figure has leg problems. His left leg appears to also have been warped by the plastic tray. It just looks odd no matter what position it's in. Maybe over time it'll straighten itself out.

Rounding out the Crime Syndicate is Johnny Quick. You don't have to be a comic fan to figure out he's the evil version of the Flash. Again, this is pretty much a repaint of the regular Flash figure with a new head sculpt.

And what's up that goofy noggin? Hopefully that's just his helmet, and his head isn't actually shaped like that underneath.

According to the back of the box, Johnny Quick derives his powers from drinking "Speed Juice." Congratulations, DC and Mattel. You've made the first drug-using super hero.

All in all it's a decent but not great set containing some interesting evil versions of fan-favorite characters. Somewhat marred by the warped legs that affect some of the figures, which may just have been symptomatic of the box I bought. Definitely not worth the original asking price, but an OK buy at the marked down price of $35.

My favorite part of this set though is the box. Specifically the back of the box, which contains short bios of the various characters. Allow me to highlight a few of the character descriptions:

Owlman: Not even loyal to his own syndicate, he is having an affair with Superwoman and blackmailing Ultraman.

Superwoman: Married to Ultraman, she is having an illicit affair with Owlman.

What. The. Hell. Seriously, Mattel? You printed those two passages on the back of a box of action figures found in the toy aisle. Was it absolutely necessary to include that info? Are there even any editors working in the marketing department at Mattel? I guess this proves that like the comics that inspired them, action figures are for adults now and no longer aimed at children.

I cannot wait until some six year old gets this set for Xmas, reads the back of the box and says, "Mommy, what's an illicit affair?"

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