While they’re not always know for doing so, I have to respect Mattel when they keep their word, which they certainly have with the Club Infinite Earths subscription this year. The sub was promised to deliver characters too offbeat for retail, and focus heavily on completing teams. In this year, we’ve seen hard sell characters like Constantine and Uncle Sam, we have a (mostly) complete Doom Patrol, and now, thanks to December’s two new figure sets, the Metal Men are complete.
I have no major affinity to the Metal Men, but I’ve read a few of their comics over the years and they’re weird and neat enough, with some funky character designs that Mattel has done a great job of translating into their action figures. Previously at retail, we saw Iron, Gold and Mercury, and Infinite Earths rounds out the roster with Lead (a deluxe figure) and a two-pack of Platinum and Tin. All three are well-sculpted, fit in well with their teammates, and are inhibited by disappointing– often major– design flaws.
Platinum fares the best of the three, with a nice new headsculpt and some subtle rivets adorning her gloves, boots and chestplate. Due to her bright silver color, and her character’s lack of any insignia, Platinum is definitely the plainest-looking of the team, but she’s well-sculpted enough to get a pass. The figure also includes one piece I’ve been wanting for a long time in this line– a flat skirt, with no pleats or windswept flares. This piece gives me hope we might see some skirted heroines down the line, most notably Arisia (my number one Green Lantern want). But even this great skirt has a drawback– the material is too stiff, so the piece restricts virtually any movement in Platinum’s legs.
Tin is without a doubt the worst of the bunch. The diminutive hero was relegated to an accessory, as a pack-in with Platinum. While his all-new sculpt is once again well-executed, his limited articulation (swivel head and shoulders) and off-scale size (Mattel had him shrunk down, way out of scale to save production costs) are a let-down. If that disappointment is coming from a fairweather fan of the characters like me, I can only imagine how more invested Metal Men fans will feel about this.
Lead is the final figure in the set, and the Metal Men’s strongman garnered lots of controversy since his prototype debuted, due to his use of the Collect N Connect Darkseid body, which is grossly out of scale and way too large for this character. So we knew there would be serious problems with this guy from the get-go, made especially frustrating by the fact that there were bucks ready for use that would have made better choices, such as Etrigan the Demon.
That being said, I don’t hate Lead nearly as much as I thought I would. Yes, he’s quite large, but the wise choice to include new, stumpier legs shaves some height off him, and the Darkseid buck does offer a nice girth to the hero, making him visually distinct from his teammates. The grinning headsculpt is fantastic, easily the best of the entire team, and it goes a long way to selling this figure for me. I also like the subtle wash, the best we’ve seen on a Metal Man since Iron, which gives Lead an actual metallic look.
So the Metal Men don’t manage to stick the landing with these three new additions. The individual design flaws are glaring and obvious, and so distracting they almost make the now-assembled team still feel incomplete. It seems like there would have been a better way to release this trio and have them come out better– instead of a too-small pack in with Platinum, I don’t see why Mattel couldn’t have used a smaller, money-saving buck like Etrigan for Lead, and then packed a larger Tin with him? Or switch Lead, on a smaller body, to the “standard” figure, and call Platinum and full-size Tin a deluxe two-pack? The release pattern seems confusing and uncalled for, and ends up being a disservice to the characters.
While it’s less dramatic, I also feel disappointed that all three of these figures lose some of the fun quirks Mattel added to the previous Metal Men. Gone are the metal fists of Iron and Gold, as well as any clip-on accessories or swappable hands. After the fiasco of Mercury’s snapping wrists, maybe Mattel didn’t want to tempt fate, but more than likely they just dubbed Tin the accessory and shrugged it off as “good enough.”
I applaud Mattel on coming through, and essentially completing two teams that quite honestly would have been too obscure for mass retail. There’s a simple coolness just looking at the assembled six Metal Men, like I never actually thought I’d see this happen… but it’s when you look too hard that design flaws and illogical choices are written all over the back half of this team. For me, that disappointment trumps the feeling of completion as we close the book on another team of DC heroes, and the first year of Mattel’s subscription.