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Mattel’s DC Multiverse Expands The ‘Dark Knight’ Universe

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Mattel’s first artist-inspired Multiverse action figure set continues to impress.

I’ve got to hand it to Mattel– the current minds behind the DC Multiverse brand truly seem to GET collector fatigue.  We’ve seen decidedly few figures that would serve as a direct continuation of the long-running DC Universe Classics, but this is actually smart.  DC Collectibles kind of cornered the market on classic comic figures with their DC Icons, and so Mattel is focusing on… everything else.

Amidst the movie and TV based figures under the Multiverse umbrella, we’re also seeing Mattel quietly tackle the major characters from Frank Miller and Klaus Jansen’s seminal The Dark Knight Returns, and the results have been astonishing.  It started with a trio of Wal-Mart exclusives including chunky, Miller-style Batman, Superman, and a Son of Batman army builder.  But now the sub-set is growing, with Armored Batman and Carrie Kelly’s Robin joining as part of the latest wave of Multiverse figures.

To call these two figures anything short of incredible would be an understatement.  Yes, they’re made by the same Mattel that has cut corners and cheaped out on so many toys in the past… but this pair proves how spot-on Mattel and sculptors the Four Horsemen can be when they go all in.  I’m not exaggerating when I say I’d be shocked if both these figures did not show up on my best figures of 2016 list, because they are simply that well done.

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Let’s start with Batman. Once again, the figure makes ingenious use of the MOTUC base body to offer the same bulky proportions of Miller’s take on the comic book heroes.  But with Armored Batman, that base body is literally not even seen.  He features all new arms and legs, sculpted to be painstakingly accurate to his appearance in the graphic novel, and his chest features a MOTUC style rubber overlay which adds even more bulk to the figure’s frame, and maintaining the look of Miller’s battle-ready Batman.

Every piece of Miller’s armor design is rendered perfectly here, from the wrinkles around the padding of Batman’s chest armor, to the spiked cleats on the bottom of his boots.  And the portrait is wonderful, from the extra-large cowl/ helmet, to the wrinkled grimace Bruce Wayne wears underneath it, and the way this neck joint interacts with the high collar of the chest armor offers tons of fantastic, comic-accurate posing options.  Batman includes a rubber cape attached to his armor, as well as the gun he uses early in his “final” fight with Superman.

As great as Batman is, Robin might be even better.  Carrie Kelly’s sculpt is 100% unique, and she matches Miller’s character design in terms of proportion, appearance, and scale.  That distinctive swoosh of orange hair is perfectly adapted in this sculpt, as are Carrie’s futuristic glasses.  Every bit of this figure feels authentic to Miller’s artwork, right down to the blocky hands (always a weak spot in Miller’s artwork).

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Carrie includes her slingshot, which can be held in her hand, or attached to her belt via a loop.  The slingshot is sculpted with the band limp, which is one of the few downsides of an otherwise perfect figure… if the sling were made of soft rubber instead, so as to actually be functional, it would have put this accessory over the top.

The only other shortfall of the figure is the paint work on her glasses.  While the rest of Robin is perfectly painted and excitingly bright next to Batman’s dark tones, Mattel and the Horsemen opted to present Carrie’s glasses as opaque instead of translucent.  This means, unlike the comic look, we can’t see her eyes.  In the end, it’s a small change, and certainly not a flaw big enough to sink a sculpt as thoughtful and well designed as this.  But I still find myself wishing the glasses had been sculpted as a separate piece, with Carrie’s complete face rendered underneath.

As I said, these flaws in the design feel small, especially compared into how much right is going on with these figures.  I know Miller’s book is divisive, and not everyone cares for his exaggerated style, but regardless of your personal thoughts on the source material, I can say this sub-line is producing the best toys to come out of Mattel in years.  Even Masters of the Universe Classics– the Four Horsemen’s most iconic toy line to date– has felt a bit stale in recent times.  But the Dark Knight Returns figures they’re designing serve as the perfect reminder of what they– and Mattel– are really capable of.

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