Produced by Mattel | Released February 2013
As part of their New 52-style relaunch of their DC figure lines, Mattel (or more accurately, Matty Collector) has started over with two new toy lines intended to replace the DC Universe Classics range at retail. We've already seen their new Flash from the DC Universe Unlimited line but today is the turn of DC's iconic avenger, Batman - a character so important that he even gets his own sub-line in the form of the Batman Unlimited range.
As mentioned, this figure represents the New 52 version of Batman, sporting an underpants-over-tights-free rendition of the character, as designed by Jim Lee. Although fairly close to the original design, this new overhaul includes a few tweaks for the new millennium.
Sculpt & Design
Like The Flash, the new Batman figure is based upon Mattel's standard DC Universe buck, augmented with a few character-specific pieces and a new lick of paint. Let's take a closer look.
As you can see, the modern design strips down Batman's look, doing away with details such as the aforementioned strongman underwear/tights combo and introduces a more futuristic look. It's a look that's clearly influenced by the Batman movie costumes, appearing to be more akin to body armor than spandex. Purists may have some qualms about this new look but personally I like the way it retains the essence of Batman's look but strips it down to an even more simplistic/iconic look. Although it's a million miles away in terms of the way it's rendered, I'm reminded of Dave McKean's work on Arkham Asylum, where Batman is represented solely as a shadow or silhouette. I don't know if Jim Lee was trying to create a more workable version of that bold look or not but that's how this design feels to me, being very much a ''back to basics'' overhaul.
The figure itself is a good translation of the comic book character's new costume, featuring the metallic armor (complete with semi-plated look) and iconic costume pieces. Of particular note are the gauntlets, character-specific pieces produced especially for this figure (along with his chest, belt, boots and head sculpt.) The only downside to the forearm pieces is the joint, which seems overly large (an optical illusion, as it's the same set up used by The Flash, who does not suffer this same problem.) My guess is it's due to the slight bulk of the gauntlets themselves, but it does evoke the look of the Power Attack Batman line in my eyes.
I am a fan of the head sculpt. Jim Lee's look has been captured perfectly here, with Batman's grim, set jaw being a real highlight, although again there is a little bit of an optical illusion that makes the head appear smaller than it is. Presumably this is due to the length of the head and the ears.
The cape (well, technically it should be a cloak) is also very cool, featuring a smart bit of sculpting that works both as a piece in motion or when he's stationary. Either way there's a kind of dynamism to it that looks good in each case. On the downside it's a little heavy and can throw off some poses (especially as the figure comes without any form of stand or base) but it's not so noticeable as to make posing the figure too difficult.
Again, like The Flash, Batman uses the standard DC Universe Classics set-up when it comes to his articulation. It's a rigging that has both advantages and disadvantages.
I love the ab-crunch joint and the t-crotch set-up, although not as good as something like the GI Joe joint system, is more dependable than the Marvel Universe arrangement. The knees and elbows are both single-jointed, ankles are limited to forward and backward (or up and down) movement and there's no calf articulation but he does include thigh-cut joints (which look neater than they did on the Flash) and an incredibly expressive head tilt joint.
It's a set up that's fine for what it is but at the same time, when Hasbro is producing figures with tilting wrists and rocker ankles at half the size, it can feel a little limited at times, especially given that these figures are really intended for an older audience of collectors.
I've read in a number of reviews elsewhere that one of the real weak points of this line is the paintwork. Thankfully my Batman has a pretty clean app overall, but it is something to certainly watch for.
The actual design of the paintwork is pretty cool, with the suit having enough of a metallic edge to make it pop but at the same time complement the black of the boots, gloves and other details without looking out of place. Batman's exposed face may perhaps be a little on the pale side but when you consider how little sun Bruce Wayne gets, it makes sense.
Extras & Accessories
The Batman Unlimited figures retail at a price-point that's about $3 lower than the previously-seen DC Universe Classics line so in order to hit that mark, Mattel has cut a few corners, specifically in the accessories department. The figures do not include stands and much as I'd have loved to see Batman with a Batarang or other similar accessory, he's sadly equipment free. (It's worth noting the line's Penguin figure includes his umbrella, so at least Matty Collector is including some accessories with some figures.)
I have to admit I have mixed feelings about the new DC figures. On the one hand the sculpting is great, the pricing is very fair ($16 or so for a 7'' figure compares very well to $10 for the average 3.75'' figure) and they do look really good. But at the same time, accessories are slim-to-none, the QC of the paint apps is a little loose in some cases and their articulation set-up, whilst innovative in some areas, is a little lacking when you consider the scale.
What I find particularly irksome though - and you can skip this if you just want to learn more about the actual Batman figure itself - is that they're virtually impossible to find at retail. Of the eight local (and not so local) stores I visited looking for these toys, only three carried the line. And of those, only two actually had any of the figures in stock (and even then, pickings were slim). I know I've come to the DC/Batman Unlimited party a little late (but only by a month or so) but it annoys me to see yet another toy line hit retail in what seems a ''once only'' drop before vanishing from shelves - especially when those same shelves are clogged with unsold - and inferior - Dark Knight Rises and Amazing Spider-Man toys by the case load. I've no idea who is at fault here but somebody somewhere needs to realize that there is a demand for these toys. Seriously, can you think of any other industry where the consumer - who is ready and willing to make a purchase - is treated so badly?
Anyway, back to the Batman figure...
Like his wave-mate The Flash, whether you really like this Batman will depend on your views on the New 52 look. Personally I like the redesign but I know there are staunch supporters of his old school look. Which is fine, as I'm sure somewhere down the line we'll be getting all kinds of retro Batmen. But for now, this is the Batman of the day.
As I mentioned above, I have a little bit of an ambivalence attitude toward the figure, mainly due to the high and low points of the DC Universe buck. I like the sculpting (except for the Power Attack Batman forearms) and there's some neat articulation in the head, plus the t-crotch, although limited, does behave as it should. But at the same time I find the single-joint knees and elbows to be a little limiting and the lack of rocker ankles does limit the figure's range of poses. But on the other hand there's the neatly-pitched price-point-to-scale, which works out well. It's a tough call.
Ultimately it comes down to this: if you're looking for a 7'' tall New 52 Batman figure - and you can actually find him at retail - then you'll find this figure checks all the boxes and does exactly what you'd expect of him - but nothing more. Or, if like me, you've a spare $16 and you're curious as to how Mattel's figures shape-up against Hasbro's smaller-scale toys, then you certainly won't regret buying this figure, as what you get for your money is pretty good. But with that said, having now purchased two figures from the new Mattel line-ups, I am starting to feel that I've seen all their tricks and unless the next releases are something very special then my Justice League collection may wind up being simply a duo.
A solid, neatly-executed figure that Batman fans will dig but that just doesn't quite have enough fun to make him must-have special.
Final Score: B+