DC Superheroes wave 4
Darkseid and Brainiac

Some stores haven't even gotten the third series of DC Superheroes yet...and this last week, I saw the second series show up at our local Target for the very first time. And yet the fourth series are already hitting other locations. Talk about some weird distribution!

The fourth series is another Superman themed wave, and includes a new Superman (sort of), Lex Luthor, Brainiac and Darkseid. In my area, these are hitting Meijers stores, although in some other areas Wal-marts are getting them out. They only run $8 at Meijers, so I was a happy camper.

Unfortunately, there wasn't any sign of Lex on the pegs, so he'll have to wait for another day. And Superman didn't do much for me. He's not a straight repack from series 2, thankfully, but it appears to be the old Mattel Superman comic book figure from the Superman/Batman two pack. The head sculpt did anyway, although it seemed as though the body was more articulated. Since he didn't come home with me, I can't say definitively.

Ah, but Darkseid and Brainiac did come home with me, and that's tonight's review. These two characters have been done many times over the past 20 years. Can Mattel bring something new to the party?

Packaging - ***
There's no real surprises here if you've seen the previous 3 waves. The same pseudo-clamshell, with a bubble that runs the entire front of a card back holds the figure and included comic book safe and sound. These packages hold up to shelf wear extremely well, and I'm betting they reduce peg theft pretty well too.

A big plus is the lack of twisties with these two guys. There is a plastic 'belt' around Darkseid, but the trays are formed in such a way as to keep the figures in place without the need of any twist ties.

Sculpting - ***1/2
The sculpts on both of these figures is well above the average mass market work, rivaling some of the specialty market work from companies like DC Direct.  The scale is smaller, at around 6", but because Darkseid is such a big guy to begin with, he towers over the other six inch figures.

In fact, scale is great with both of these figures, if you're comparing them against the rest of the six inch line.

Darkseid isn't just tall, he's bulky and solid.  The muscle sculpt is excellent, well cut without being over defined, and the deeply lined stone face looks terrific.

Brainiac looks great as well, with a much more defined sculpt than some other robot versions.  He also has a creepy, cruel hand sculpt, and the sculpt and articulation work terrific together.

Paint - ***1/2
The paint ops on both figures are extremely clean and well done, particularly for mass market toys. What you're seeing here is in line with what you'd expect on figures in the $12 - $16 range on the specialty market.

Of course it helps that much of the plastic is cast in the actual color in a number of places, and it also helps that there aren't a ton of small detail paint operations. Still, there's some very good work here, especially in the use of the wash on Darkseid, and in the brightly colored internal doohickeys on Brainiac. It's always the small touches that takes a toy from play thing to display thing, and with this line Mattel seems to get it.

Articulation - Brainiac ***1/2; Darkseid ***
Both of these figures are fairly well articulated, but you won't be turning them in to yoga masters.

Darkseid has a ball jointed neck, although the tilt and forward/backward movement is restricted a bit by the sculpting. He also have ball jointed shoulders, jointed on both sides, but again, they are a tad restricted by the sculpt. There's pin elbows, knees and ankles, cut forearms at the top of the gloves, and ball jointed hips. These hips aren't quite as useful as you might expect, even though they are true balls, because his clothing gets in the way. But then again, big guys like Darkseid don't like to do wild leg poses very often. What if they fell? A big man falling down is never a graceful sight, and the other super villains would never let them live it down.

Brainiac also has a ball jointed neck, and I found it more useful than Darkseid's. This is because it moves a tad better, but also because it works in concert with the upper chest joint.  This joint can tilt forward and backward on a ball quite a way, and the tubes attached to his back can be disconnected if they get in the way.

His ball jointed shoulders are also more useful, and there's a cut bicep, pin elbows, and cut wrists.  There's a waist joint, cut thighs, pin knees and ankles, and even cut calves.  The hips are the funky style we saw with Supes before, and they actually have quite a wide range of movement.

Adding to his articulation score is the fact that both pouches on his belt are jointed at the top, so that if you move the legs out from the body, the pouches move too.  That means there's nothing restricting the legs, and it's a welcome touch.

Accessories - Darkseid **1/2; Brainiac *;
Wave 3 came with cardboard 'dioramas', but those are missing from wave 4. And while past waves included character specific comics, that's not the case here. Both of these figures came with the same reused Bizarro comic book. I'm not a fan of included comics in the first place (except when they really go out of their way with them, like the ML Icons), and repacking in comics people already got from a previous wave doesn't do much to improve my attitude.

Darkseid does have one additional accessory though - his 'mother box'. The sculpt is good, and it fits pretty well in his right hand, but it does tend to fall out a little easily. I found no way to actually attach it to his belt.

Fun Factor - ***1/2
It seems that people think an action figure is either a toy, or it's a 'collectible'. And for many, they can't seem to realize it can be - and often should be - both. The folks running this line at Mattel get it, and I'm damn glad they do.

These figures look excellent, but are also built sturdy enough for any regular play by your average 5 year old. They can duke it out in the sand box, or jump off the porch into the pit of doom. Just don't hit them with the lawnmower.

Value - ***
These appear to be running $8 - $9 at most retail stores right now, even online. That's an excellent price, right in line with Marvel Legends. There's decent size, great sculpting, solid paint, and good articulation here, although they lack the kick ass sort of accessories that would give them another half star in this category.

Things to Watch Out For - 
Nothing here that's likely to break, get lost, or create problems. These are built for play, yet look good on the shelf. A perfect combination.

Overall - ***1/2
With every series, this line has improved. Wave 1 was hampered a bit by being re-issues of the international figures, but there's no denying how cool that Scarecrow is. Wave 2 gave us an excellent Bizarro, and while some were disappointed in Doomsday's size, he certainly was a nice sculpt. Wave three brought an excellent Batman and an even better Azrael, and even managed to re-do the earlier Mr. Freeze in a better paint scheme with more articulation. And now series 4 appears to have three solid winners in Brainiac, Luthor and Darkseid.

Now, it is a tad disappointing that this line is turning into a Batman/Superman show. And some of the decisions around case packs seem a bit off (there are 4 rehashed Supes in a case of wave 4, with only one each of two of the villains). But considering that this line is half the cost of the DC Direct figures, and are being produced for a mass market audience where quality is usually sacrificed, they are surprisingly good. When my son asks for DC characters to play with, these are the ones he gets, and I'm very glad that we have something this good available at the local store.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***
Sculpt - ***1/2; 
Paint - ***1/2
Articulation - ***
Accessories - Darkseid **1/2; Brainiac *;
Fun Factor - ***1/2
Value -  ***
Overall - ***1/2

Where to Buy - 
I picked these up at Meijers, and if you're lucky enough to a) have one around and b) it's one that's actually carrying the DCSH series (not all do), then you can get them for just eight bucks each. I'm assuming we'll see these at Target eventually, but they're a long way behind on this line. Online options are all pre-orders right now, and include:

- CornerStoreComics has the singles for around $8 (although some are already pre-sold out) and the set for $48.

- Killer Toys has the singles for $13, or the set for $45.

- Amazing Toyz will have their pre-orders up soon, but not quite yet.

Related Links - 
With three past waves, you know I have some reviews:

- there's the guest review of series 3 Batman and Azrael.

- a guest review of series 2 Doomsday, and another of the series 2 Superman.

- my review of the series 2 Bizarro and Supergirl.

- my review of the Batman and Killer Croc from wave 1.

- and finally, my review of Bane and Scarecrow that were released internationally as part of the old Mattel line, and then re-released with wave 1 of the DCSH.


Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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