DC Superheroes Batman and Azrael

Jin is back tonight with another terrific guest review - take it away, Jin!

Hey there, it’s me Jin again with some more action figure goodness, this time from Mattel’s DC Superheroes S3 ‘Select Sculpt’ Series! This time around we get another Batman-based wave, already hitting Wal Marts in the US where series 2 Superman wave is just now beginning to hit Toys R Us. There are four figures in this series, Batman, Azrael, Robin, and Mr Freeze. I was lucky enough to grab Batman and Azrael for this review, Robin just being a repaint and Mr Freeze being short packed. I’ll tell you right now Robin has no added articulation, no elbows joints and a just a DC Direct-like T-crotch. Mr Freeze, while he looks like a repaint from the old Batman line, got a HUGE update in articulation. He’s shortpacked though and I didn’t see him. I don’t know why Robin got the short end of the stick this time, bleh. So how does this wave stack up against the previous two? Let’s see….

Packaging - ***
It can almost be considered a clamshell as the plastic goes all the way to the edge and wraps underneath the card giving it some protection when sitting upright on the shelf. You can see the figure easily through the window and the removable diorama makes up the background for the card. The graphics are nice on the front, the DC Superheroes logo and the main symbol for the series (Batman’s symbol) are clearly seen. On the back it features pics of all four characters and a quick description of S3 Select Sculpt Series. I guess the S3 stands for ‘series three’ and will change to S4 next?

So why no four stars here? Because the card hook is only partially reinforced on the back with just a little plastic strip and I saw at least three other figures sitting on the bottom shelf because the hooks been ripped. With a heavy figure like Azrael or Mr Freeze, this is sure to be a problem for MoC.

Sculpting - ***1/2
Select Sculpt hmmm… well they weren’t kidding! The first DCSH Batman series looked decent, if not a little toonish. The second series with Superman got better. This time around Mattel apparently decided to pull out all the stops and blow the others series away… along with DC Direct’s current offerings. Folks, this is the finest Batman sculpt I have seen yet and it looks like he jumped right out of the comics! His facial features are stern and detailed, not soft like the first release. His body is muscular and smooth, but with fabric wrinkles near the waist and joints to remind you he’s wearing a suit. The bat symbol is sculpted on this time around and looks fantastic. However you’ll notice right off the bat (pun!) that this is not the iconic Batman costume, but a new one that I figure was designed for this series. Of course I don’t read a ton of DC comics, so he may have appeared like this at some point

The utility belt is extremely detailed right down to the individual stitch marks that line the pouches. It has a chiseled ‘Mezco comic hellboy’ look and resembles some sort of oversized military belt, like something that was worn in WW2 I guess. The boots and gloves are done with different textures to them, smooth leather with a wrinkly ‘boot’ leather. It looks great the way the two textures contrast, though like I said before, it’s not the classic look. Batman’s cape is wonderfully done, just the right length and with sharp edges. It hangs realistically from him, not cartoony and mirror-perfect.

My one gripe about Batman’s sculpt is his left hand which is suppose to hold his batarangs. They only gave him a shallow slot there to hold them and it doesn’t do a good job at all. He can only hold the very tip of a batarang there and you’d need to dig a deeper one with a knife tip if you want anything more than that, meh. This could have been caught early on.

Now for Azrael, whom as I hear, fans have requested for years. Az’s face and hood are one piece and the inner red design is sculpted on, not just painted. He looks downright pissed under that mask and it works for him. The body armor is somewhat hidden by the cowl but if you lift it up you’ll find it extremely detailed with sharp-looking lines and nice edges to it. The diamond-shaped chest piece hovers over his abdomen and belt. The rest of his Az’s body is pretty smooth and doesn’t have the suit wrinkles in it like Batman’s. Az also has a great little ‘Order of St Dumas’ medallion on his cape as well.

His gloves however more than make up for this and for me are the highlight of this figure. Each glove has a ton of circuitry and panels cut into it and have the most wicked looking blades jutting out. The blades are clear flexible plastic with the fire molded right onto them, looking as if they’re glowing hot to the touch. The fire looks particularly amazing and looks as if its licking up off the surface! Az’s cape is very well done as well with six separate ‘fingers’ that extend from the shoulder sections and arch over his back. However they lay too close to the main cape and make the whole thing look a tad small, which is unfortunate because his cape always looked big and menacing in the comics. 

Why no four stars for Azrael? Because he’s sculpted in a ‘looking at the penny on the street’ pose. You have to lean him way back in order to see his face because his neck and head are so far down on his chest. It works for him if say, he’s up top on your shelf looking down, but is kind of annoying otherwise.

Paint - ****
They should probably call this ‘Select Paints’ too because each figure’s paint job is remarkable enough to resemble that on a high-grade statue. Batman has a great combination of airbrushed shadows and painted highlights, along with a wash on his belt and face that are just the right tone. His light blue sections look great with their dry brushed highlights and contrast well to the rest of his gray body. I counted three different shades of brown on his belt and it has nice silver rivets. The cape’s paintjob is the best I’ve seen with perfect shading all through it. Mattel decided to do bright streaks of light blue highlighting on the hard edges too, giving it an artsy comic book look. Even though you can see the brushstrokes it looks great and blends in with the vertical look of the cape’s folds! 

Azrael fares just as well as Batman but with a darker overall look to him. His body armor is black with a perfect tone of gold over it giving a realistic metallic look. The red is molded in color but the airbrushed shading works great and is everywhere you need a shadow to be, across the back and underside of the cape as well. Every time I look at him he reminds me of a Bowen statue with joints, the paint job is just that nice. There are copper wires on his gloves and the blades are dual-toned, darkening orange at the tips and across the flames. His medallion on his cape is a nice copper color and the spear tip design (which is called something that I cannot for the life of me remember) is done with precision. Overall these figures are leaps and bounds past the last two DCSH series and if Mattel keeps this up, the line will become a true classic for collectors and kids alike.

Articulation - ***1/2
Both Batman and Azrael sport the same range of articulation but with a few minor changes. Everyone will be comparing these to a Marvel Legends figure, and while they don’t have as many joints, this is a classic case of ‘less is more’. Batman has a ball-jointed head with decent range to it, ball shoulders, and a great ab crunch with wonderful range forward and back. His waist swivels and below that he has the new standard in swing-up hips. While not ball-joint, they perform the same universal-joint action and have corrected the wide-stance problem Superman had in series 2. There’s also cut thighs, knee, elbow, and ankle joints. His wrists turn at the top of the glove. You can’t quite get his legs in a 90 degree sitting position because they smack the bottom of the oversized belt unfortunately, but they come very close. 

Azrael sports the same kind of articulation Batman has except the range of his head is hindered a bit by his hood and he has a ball-jointed ab instead of a hinged one. This works out well because his body armor is concave looking at the bottom and that’s right where they put the joint, good job Mattel! Azrael’s gauntlets turn at the end, and so do the wrists, allowing you to put the blades above or below his fist as well. Many people might not pick up on that at first, especially since the glove and wrist look like one solid piece. Here’s where I would of liked to have him with moveable fingers, as his hands are just in clenched fists. 

Remember how I said ‘less is more’ with these figures? Well here the articulation looks good while serving its purpose. It keeps the figure sculpt looking sleek. Batman’s single joint elbow has just as much range to it as any of my double-joint ML elbows. The knees could benefit from a double hinge, but I’m in no way complaining. This is a great middle ground and I really hope Mattel keeps it.

Accessories - Batman ***1/2; Azrael **
BATARANGS! Batman comes loaded with SEVEN DIFFERENT styles of Batarangs! That just blew my mind when I picked him up. There’s two types of folding ones (unfortunately they don’t actually fold) an old Adam West wide style, a grappling one with a loop for a strong, a Robin-style one without the bat ears, a long-tailed one, and a classic Batarang. Whew! If only he could hold them well, eh? 

Batman also comes with a generic folding diorama that all the figures in the series come with. It’s separate from the actual card and done in a glossy cardboard. This would of looked awesome except the fact someone decided to plaster a big, hokey, comic book ‘explosion’ in the very middle of what looks like a gritty downtown Gotham scene. Kids will like it, but collectors may not. The diorama has the ‘tab a to slot b’ thing going on and it’ll take you a minute or two to put it together. It looks ok I guess, but doesn’t hold together great without some tape as the edges of the tabs split easily.

Azrael is light on the accessory department and only comes with the backdrop. You can’t really call the cloak or gloves an accessory because they’re a permanent piece of the figure. I’m surprised he didn’t come with his flaming sword, which was featured in more than one comic appearance, but I’m just happy to finally have him.

Value - **? ****?
These figures are $9.99 at Wal Mart and Toys R Us, ouch! I was pissy when Marvel legends went up to $7.99. These just hurt the wallet… or do they? If you’re a kid comparing them against a Sigma Six figure, yes. If you’re a collector, no, these are great. See, this series rivals what DC Direct is doing, and those things are $12.99 aimed at collectors. 

Not only do you get a better paint job, better sculpting, and more articulation, you get it for three bucks less and at a mass-market availability. I went to Tower Records today and checked out the current DC Direct offerings to confirm my suspicions. These ‘Select Sculpt Series’ are heads and tails above what’s out there, and have become the new definitive DC figures for me, no questions asked.

Things to Watch Out For – 
Make sure you check the paint jobs. Even though I haven’t seen any muddles yet, they are mass-market so things can slip by. Be careful with Azrael’s blades. They’re soft plastic but are only glued on and not parts of the gauntlet sculpt. You could tear one loose if you tugged at them too hard.

Overall - ***
I really want to give these figures four stars but there’s little issues holding them back like Batman’s shallow grip and Azrael’s emo-floor-stare. Mattel has the ability to do great, great things with this line, and from what we saw at the SDCC they’re going to try. These figures aren’t perfect, but they’re the best we’ve had so far in my opinion.

This is Jin Saotome saying thanks for checking out the review and look forward to more! 

Score Recap 
Packaging - ***
Sculpt - ***1/2
Paint - ****
Articulation - ***1/2
Accessories - Batman ***1/2; Azrael **
Value - **? ****?
Overall - ***

Related Links:
I've reviewed, or had reviewed, most of the previous two waves:

- there was the guest review of Doomsday, a guest review of Superman, my review of Superman, and my review of Bizarro and Supergirl, all from wave 2.

- Also, I reviewed the Batman and Killer Croc from the first series. Since some of these were originally released as European exclusives in the old style card/bubbles, I reviewed the Bane and Scarecrow from there, and have a great guest review of the Batsignal Batman and Attack Armor Batman

Where to Buy:
Online options include:

- CornerStoreComics has them as well for around $9 each, with a slightly better price for a full wave purchase.

- Amazing Toyz has them for around $9 each, and better pricing on a full wave as well.

Figure from the collection of Jin Saotome.

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