JL Crime Bust Batman

I'm waiting with great anticipation (and fear) for the initial release of Mattel's Batman line. I can't wait to see what they do with the old caped crusader, but what they've done so far with the animated Justice League line as been fairly lukewarm in quality and innovation.

Today's review covers the latest Justice League Batman item from Mattel to hit the shelves - the Crime Bust Batman. This deluxe play set ships with a similar Superman play set. They retail for about $11 each, and are the first foray by Mattel into the world beyond basic figures. Their first vehicle, the Javelin 7, should be shipping to stores soon.

Packaging - ***
The packaging is fairly nice, with a good use of color and graphics. It's not too large, and for the MIBBers, should be pretty easy to store. Shelf wear will be only a moderate issue, with crinkling of the plastic window edges possible. It's not collector friendly by my definition, and the openers will have to destroy it to get to the prize. Still, it's decent work overall. 

Sculpting - ***
I'm only discussing the sculpting on the play set itself here - I'm considering the Batman figure an accessory, since the main driving force for the purchase is the set, not the figure.

The sculpt work is very reminiscent of the early BTAS style, with that 40's noir sort of look that worked so well for the show. The set has the right amount of detail, not too little and simplistic, but not so much that it no longer looks like the cartoon. The action features are incorporated into the set in a way that isn't too obtrusive, and if you don't care about them they won't hurt the overall appearance on the shelf.

My only big complaint - and it's enough to drop the set a half star from this score - is the goofy picture and 'door' that shows the Joker. I had quite a bit of trouble getting mine to stay shut, and the spring action works a little too well. Once it is shut, the look of the overall set is hurt by the silliness of the image, and going with a simple door or window would have been much better. Perhaps a window with a glaring Joker looking out, or a more serious pose for the Joker as he is leaving the building. As it is, it comes across too Scooby Doo for my tastes.

Perhaps if the look of the rest of the set wasn't so good, it wouldn't have bothered me as much. They really did do a great job capturing the feel of the show, and the set will look great on your shelf with the other figures. The top half of the building rises up out of the set as well, making it twice as tall, and the sculpting was designed to accommodate this appearance.

Paint - ***
Again, I'm only counting the paint application on the play set. I'll get to discussing the paint work on the Batman figure in the Accessories section.

This category was the most impressive for me on this set. While the brick facade is predominately gray, they've used a darker over spray to give the building a weathered look, and to give it even a greater appearance of depth. This works extremely well, particularly on the column like sides of the set.

Too bad the same care couldn't be seen on the Batman repaint.  I would have actually gone another half star on this set except for the odd choice of changing the color of the bricks between the top and bottom halves.  I think going with a different - more accurate - color for the bricks was a good idea, but they should have colored the bricks on the interior section (bottom half) the same.

Action Features - **1/2
There are three action features on the set, which is pretty good for something this size. While they don't all work flawlessly, it is a fun set to play around with.

Batman can be placed on a foot pad on top of the building. Oddly, he faces the back of the building, but that's so he does a flip in the air and kicks in the door below. Pressing one button on the top flips him into the air...but I had less than stellar results getting him to actually hit the door. Rather than being the norm, it was certainly the exception. Still, the foot pad works well and sends him soaring with a strong spring.

The second feature is the door itself. It pops inward when struck, although I had a tough time getting it to stay closed ever. However, on the few occasions Bats actually hit the mark, the door worked fine.

The final feature is the winch. The rope and attachment that can be placed around Batman's wrist allow for him to automatically be lifted into the air. Pushing another button on the top retracts the rope, and these feature works great.

Even though the features don't work perfectly, you're getting three on a reasonably priced play set. That's pretty good, and unlike the usual Hasbro Star Wars action features, these were fun to play around with.

Articulation - **
The usual neck, shoulders and hips are present on the Batman repaint figure. The shoulders are especially loose, which was done on purpose to make the 'flipping' action work smoother. I can't help but think though that if the arm stayed in one position a little better, he might have hit the door more often. Having his arm spin so easily seems to throw him off course more than it helps.

Accessories - *1/2
The Batman figure is the accessory here, and it's pretty disappointing. It is the exact same figure that we've already gotten one original and two repaints of, and while the sculpt is decent, the paint application is very poor. Mine had sloppy lines, inconsistent colors, and even some weird spots on his cape. And I tried to find a good one!

Value - ***
At $11, the set is about right. Sure, I'd like to see it at $10, but considering the nice work on the set itself, and the fun nature of the action features, I can live with the extra buck in cost. It's pretty rare that anything from Mattel is priced at a reasonable rate, and with the figures costing $7 or so - even basic repaints - I'm surprised we got off this cheap.

Overall - **1/2
I was pleasantly surprised by this play set. I had to get it open to appreciate that, since it's not apparent in the box, and the Batman figure is the big disappointment. While not every action feature works perfectly, for this price Mattel
has done a nice job putting together a fun, good looking set. I almost gave it three stars, but the quality of the Batman figure held me back.  This is a decent set for the base, but you'll be tossing the Batman into a box.

Where to Buy - 
I picked mine up at Toys R Us, but I'm betting Target will have them in any time now as well.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

This page copyright 2003, Michael Crawford. All rights reserved. Hosted by 1 Hour