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Mattel’s Suicide Squad: Great In Theory, Okay In Practice

Suicide-Squad-MultiverseThere’s some amazing ideas going on in Mattel’s DC Multiverse: Suicide Squad collection.  They just need to work on their execution.

Mattel’s DC Multiverse keeps moving forward, with a confidence we haven’ seen since the peak of the DC Universe Classics days.  Their latest figures focus on this summer’s Suicide Squad, and much like the movie itself, while the concepts going on here are electric and truly exciting… the end result is more of a mixed bag.

Let’s break it down, because this gets kind of complicated: the core series of Suicide Squad Multiverse figures includes six action figures– Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Batman, The Joker, Katana, and Boomerang.  Each figure includes a Collect-N-Connect piece to build Killer Croc, which in and of itself would be a halfway decent representation of the team in the cinematic Squad.  BUT, Mattel didn’t stop there.  They also included a pair of Wal-Mart exclusive figures which adds government wrangler Rick Flagg and pyrokinetic Diablo to the team.  AND a set of Toys R Us exclusives also includes alternate versions of Harley and the Joker, each of which–along with a third Amazon exclusive Harley– includes alternate C-N-C parts to add a hoodie and ungloved hands to your shirtless Croc figure.

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It’s complicated, but I’ll be damned if it’s not ambitious!  I actually love this concept, as I’ve long been a proponent that alternate Build-A-Figure parts would be far more appreciated than duplicates packed with variant figures, and allowing for two quite different looks for Killer Croc seems like a novel yet practical way to do this.  Overall, the strength of this concept, and the diversity of these figures (and yes, the fact that I really, really want a movie-style Killer Croc toy) motivated me to go in on this series which I had previously planned to pass on.

Am I happy with my decision?  Honestly, I think mostly I am.   figures definitely aren’t great– if you’re looking for super poseability and hyper detailed screen accuracy, you’re probably better off with DC Collectibles’ super-pricey, high end figures– but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a fun charm to these toys that extends beyond their impressively complex Build-A-Figure gimmick.

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What we’re seeing here is an interesting mix, the same as we saw with the Batman v Superman Multiverse figures, because– let’s put this bluntly– some of these toys are Four Horsemen sculpts, and others are not.  There’s also some interesting parts reuse going on here, as Flagg, Diablo and the silver jacket Joker all borrow parts from previous Mattel figures from the Movie Masters era.  It mostly works, which is quite a feat, considering Multiverse figures are a slightly larger scale than the Movie Masters figures.  The parts reuse I could honestly do without, but I’m sort of impressed at how Mattel’s design team has integrated these out of scale pieces into new figures without making them look weird, off-scale, or disproportionate. That’s sort of a microcosm for Suicide Squad the movie, itself– both the film and the toy line need to do their own thing while being saddled with remnants from the past of the franchise.  Overall, the Suicide Squad toys manage to do this quite well, and in a fun and cool way.

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Breaking down the individual figures in this collection almost feels like a waste of time, because– again– the ones sculpted by the Four Horsemen clearly excel beyond the ones sculpted in house by Mattel’s team.  I will say I really like the tampo work on these figures, which is quite intricate compared to what we’ve seen from Mattel in the past.  Whether it’s Joker’s Juggalo tattoos, or Diablo’s jacket, or the bible verse on Deadshot’s collar, each inked accent on these character designs is well represented on the toys.

Also, despite their mixed paint applications (like Deadshot’s weirdly shiny head), the actor portraits are actually pretty strong.  Deadshot is definitely identifiable as Will Smith, likewise the Jai Courtney resemblance in Boomerang… and I can see a lot of Jared Leto in both Joker sculpts (more than I want to, in fact).  The Jay Hernandez/ Diablo and Joel Kinnamon/ Rick Flag portraits are easily the best of the bunch… which leaves poor Margot Robbie as the odd one out.  I just don’t see her likeness in the Harley Quinn sculpts, despite the figure itself being pretty fun and impressively poseable.

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I can’t in good conscience say the Multiverse Suicide Squad figures are THE definitive versions of any of these cinematic characters (especially since it seems like DC Collectibles plans to go deep with their movie figure collection), but it’s hard to deny the fun that’s all over this mass market retail line.  The sculpts and paint work are fair enough for the price point, the exclusive figures being truly tangential to the overall collection is refreshing, and the alternate Collect-N-Connect parts is a neat concept that has surprisingly never been explored this fully until now.

Speaking as an anti-establishment kid who grew up on punk rock, it’s hard not to appreciate the fact that Mattel has brought a toy line that proudly, overtly advertises its name– SUICIDE SQUAD– and heavily tatted, racially diverse characters, to the toy aisles of hyper-conservative big box retailers like Wal-Mart and Target.  That, in and of itself, is cool enough to give these toys some appreciation.

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