Tuesday, February 26, 2013

REVIEW: DC Unlimited - The Flash (New 52 Costume)

Produced by Mattel | Released February 2013

DC Unlimited...?
Having released 20 waves of the DC Classics line at retail, Mattel has decided - no doubt echoing the similar reboot over at DC comics - to start afresh with a new line of 6'' tall DC-themed figures. Dubbed the ''Unlimited'' line, Mattel currently has two sub-lines within the brand - the Batman Unlimited line (featuring, as the name suggests, members of the Bat Family and their villains) and the core DC Unlimited line. And it's from this line we find the subject of today's Review, the New 52-style Flash.

The Flash
There have been - to date - four characters who have adopted the identity of The Flash. The first - Jay Garrick - appeared in the Golden Age DC titles and sported a costume inspired by Hermes/Mercury, complete with winged helmet. When DC later revived some of their older characters (in what was later dubbed the Silver Age) The Flash received a new secret identity - Barry Allen - and the modern look most readers associate with the character. Although removed from regular DC continuity in the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover (his crime-fighting mantle being taken-up by his sidekick Wally West and then later his grandson Bart) Barry Allen returned to comics in 2008 before DC once more reset their continuity in the New 52 comics line, which restored Allen as The Flash.

So now everybody's up-to-speed (ha!) let's take a closer look at the figure itself.

I don't want to dwell on the packaging that much as, to be honest, it's pretty much what you'd expect from the standard blister-pack arrangement. The restraining tray within does a fine job holding The Flash in place without warping his joints or limbs, although there's no way to open the shell without ripping/cutting it from the back card. 

Sculpt & Design
Before we start, it's worth taking a moment to point out that this is the first of Mattel's 6'' DC line I've looked at and, as such, I want to take a moment to look at the figure's overall build before we move onto the character-specific pieces.
Like many figures seen in the Marvel Universe line-up, The Flash is a repaint/retool of an existing body or ''buck'' as it's termed. Given that 90% of superheroes tend to sport skin-tight costumes that are augmented with logos and minor variant pieces it's not surprising to see both Hasbro and Mattel creating their own standard figures and then adapting them with additional accessories or color-schemes.
On the whole, I like the DC Unlimited buck. There's a nice, solid feel to it and the 6'' height makes it feel chunkier than the 4'' figures I'm more used to collecting. Chances are if you did the math behind it you'd discover there's a direct ratio between the figure size and my hand size that makes this figure feel like a 4'' figure felt when I was a kid and that gives it a nice, nostalgic feel.

Proportions are good and the musculature is neat (although the articulation rig can do some unusual things to it - more on that below.) It is, overall, a pretty solid ''superhero'' foundation upon which Mattel can build, especially given that the Unlimited figures retail at around the $16 mark - about $4 less than the previously-seen DC Classics line. When you compare that to the Marvel Universe 4'' line - which now carries a $10 price tag in most places - you'll realize that you're getting a pretty decent slab of plastic for your price.
As for The Flash's sculpt, from what I can tell he's sporting four character-specific pieces in the form of a unique head, new chest and redesigned boots. Each piece is, as far as I can see, accurate to the comics. This is a double-edged sword, though, as it means the character's look is more ''iconic'' than particularly complex. Which is of course true to the comicbook origins of the toy but it does mean that if you're looking for details like folds or pouches, you won't find them here.
If I had one criticism of the figure it's that The Flash's hands are sculpted as fists. This is fine for general poses and stances but given The Flash tends to run with his hands in an almost iconic open/flat manner (kind of like a Karate Chop) it's a little disappointing to see Mattel elected not to recreate this look. My guess is that in any non-running poses it would look odd but a second pair of hands that could be switched out with his fists would have been a nice touch.

As he's based on the Mattel/DC buck, The Flash uses their standard articulation set-up. It's a little different to what you'd expect if you're not used to the line and although there are some drawbacks, it also has some improvements over the 4'' figures we're more used to here at That Figures.
For a figure at this scale it's disappointing to see that the elbow and knee articulation uses single-joints. I believe some of the DC Universe Classics figures sport double-joints but given the lower price-point here I can understand the move to a less-complicated (and therefore cheaper) set-up. I also expected to see rocker ankles but the foot articulation is limited to a single tilting joint. 
I do like the fact that the set-up includes a rotating waist and a tilting torso. This allows for some really neat, dynamic poses (none of which I managed to really capture thanks to the lack of a base) although it can do some odd things to the figure's silhouette in the form of a weird ''muffin top'' effect when he twists at the waist. Similarly the cut-thigh joints happen to interrupt the flow of his muscle and, again, this can make him appear a little fragmented (although to be fair, this is present in most figures with this same set-up.)
As a Hasbro-centric collector I found Mattel's hip joints to be the most interesting difference between the DC Unlimited figures and the Marvel Universe/GI Joe lines I'm more used to. Rather than using a ball or socket joint the Mattel buck uses a T-crotch joint that allows for forward/sitting movement that's connected to a lateral tilt joint to allow ''swing-out/wide stance'' movement. It's an oddly effective system that gives a nice range of movement and poseability although - again - it can do some rather odd things to the figure's silhouette. It's not as cool as the GI Joe set up but I found it a more adaptable and effective method than the high-cut thigh joint/weird ball thing Hasbro has introduced to the Marvel Universe line.

One way in which the DC Unlimited - and the Marvel Universe - lines differentiate their characters is through their paintwork and color schemes, so it's important that the designers get it right. And - a few minor points aside - The Flash's paint app is pretty impressive.
The New 52 costume includes the ''lightning'' lines that adorn the costume and the Flash logo is neatly applied. Where the figure falls down a little is in the color-matching of the pieces. As you can probably see in the above image, the lower legs (from the thigh-cut joint down) are cast from a different shade of red to the upper body. It's not always noticeable but it's there. 

The boots are also rather thickly painted, with the yellow/gold paint appearing to be rather generously applied. My Flash also has a little overlap onto his calves and the paint app on his head is a little loose around the jawline. This will, of course, vary from figure to figure but I have read elsewhere that the paint applications can be a little sloppy on some figures in the line so, as with all toys, always pay attention to the app and pick out the best you can find.

Extras & Accessories
The Flash comes with three clip in/on bolts of lightning/Speed Force power. The largest of the three clips very neatly into the port on his back and sits - with a little bending - quite comfortably on his shoulders. The other two pieces can be clipped onto his wrists/forearms or - with a little bending to open them up - his elbows and even knees. It's a cool little touch but it may look odd if you're not familiar with The Flash.
I'd have really liked a display stand or base with the figure (if you're wondering, I used a Microman base to help prop him up but within seconds of snapping each pic, the whole thing would keel over) but as I mentioned above, he can stand in most planted-foot poses without any issues.

Final Thoughts
Fans of Mattel's earlier DC figures will know pretty much what to expect here but as a newcomer to the line I have to admit that I'm impressed. Not wowed, but certainly impressed.

There are two reasons why I find the Unlimited lines more interesting than the previously-seen DC Universe Classics. For starters, the line appears to be predominantly focusing on DC's big hitters, with major characters such as Superman, Batman, Hawkman and The Flash all appearing in the first waves. Although it's always fun to see more obscure characters appearing in a line-up (and there are some coming in later waves), there's a core of major players that need to be present for the line to succeed, so it's cool to see Mattel giving new collectors a good place to start.

The second point is that the $16 pricing makes these figures an attractive option. The DC Universe Classics' (and indeed Marvel Legends') $20 pricing is just a little too rich for my tastes but this new price-point seems to be pitched about right, especially when you consider that the average 4'' figure is now $10. Yes, Mattel may have made some compromises with the articulation and the accessories (the Unlimited figures don't include build-a-figure components or bases) to get the pricing down but they've managed to hit what I think is a good balance between price and complexity. And whilst rocker ankles, double-jointed knees and tilting wrists would be nice, their absence isn't that detrimental to the figure and at least the joints we have here work properly (Marvel Universe hips, I'm looking at you...)

If you're a collector of the DC 6'' figures you'll probably know what to expect (even if there are a few minor tweaks to the buck). It's a solid interpretation of the New 52 Flash and so if you're a fan of DC comics then I'm sure he'll find a place in your collection. But if you're not a collector of Mattel's superhero figures then the Unlimited line is a good place to start, with The Flash being a pretty good example of what we can expect from a line I look forward to seeing more from.

A solid translation of an iconic character.

Final Score: B+

Image Gallery


  1. DC Comics current state is similar to that of King Theoden. Dan Didio and Former Image Comics employees whisper lies and deceptions into the ears of the Publishing giant like Grimer Worm toungue as everything they once had of value falls into ruin.

    1. I have read a number of writers were frustrated with Management not having answers on some of the key elements they needed to know (such as the status of certain characters post-52 reboot.) But unless you're inside it, it's difficult to really say how true such rumors are.


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