DC Direct Elsworlds
Red Son Superman, Red Son Wonder Woman, Thrillkiller Batman,
Thrillkiller Batgirl and Crimson Mist Batman

DC Direct is doing everything they can to make sure every possible artist version of Batman and Superman makes it into plastic form. At this point, if I had been an artist on a DC book at some point in the last 40 years, and there wasn't a figure based on my artwork, I'd be pretty pissed.

They're latest release in this quest is the new Elseworlds series. The first wave hit comic shops yesterday, and includes Thrillkiller Batman and Batgirl (from the Thrillkiller comic series of course), Red Son Superman and Wonder Woman (likewise, from the Red Son series), and a Crimson Mist Batman, who is by far the most 'elseworlds' of the line.

The next series will continue with some of the Red Son figures, including President Superman and Batman, along with a Gotham by Gaslight Batman, and a Kingdom Come Jade and Spectre.

My review covers the whole set, although at first I was only going to pic up the three I couldn't pass up, being a Bat-nut - Crimson Mist Batman, and Thrillkiller Batman and Batgirl. But the Red Son pair looked so much better in person, that my already fragile will power was dealt a crushing blow. You can find these at your local comic shops now, or at the online sponsors I have listed below. Expect to pay around $15 each, depending on the retailer.

Packaging -  **1/2
The packages aren't particularly plain - just unexciting. The card back shows the group of figures on both the front and back, with only the barest amount of text. There's a sticker on the bubble that is the only unique identifier for each figure, and that sticker is odd in that it doesn't cover the entire bottom of the bubble, or match up with any sort of design cut into the bubble. It's just stuck dead center over the feet of each character, and looks oddly out of place.

I did notice one odd thing - all the Red Son Superman figures have the flag packaged in such a way that the hammer/sickle/star emblem of the Soviet Union is hidden from view. One can't help but assume that was not an accident.

Sculpt - CM Bats, RS Supes ****; TK Batgirl, TK Batman, RS WW ***1/2
When DC Direct is on their game, they're unbeatable at superhero sculpts. And it doesn't have to be Tim Bruckner doing the work (although he did do Supes), as all five of these figures are sculpted by five different artists.

Of the set, my favorite sculpt is CM Bats. Now, keep in mind I only said sculpt, and I'll get to some issues that I have with the paint later. But the sculpt on this figure is fantastic, matching up well with the source material, using a great pose and facial expression, and including lots of small detail work that makes the difference. The wings were a little more toy-ish than I expected, but the rest of the figure, especially the head, is simply amazing.

Next up is the aforementioned Bruckner Supes. His stance is a little more duck-footed than I like, but I can live with it, and the musculature is well defined without ballooning out of proportion. The head sculpt is classically comic book, with a sharp, square jaw line, high cheekbones, and sculpted hair twirl. That is perhaps the most impressive feature, because his little hair twirl was done as a separate piece, and glued in - but it's almost impossible to see the seam line.

One big worry I had about Supes when looking at him in the package was the head position. He has a cut joint neck, not a ball joint, and the head and neck are sculpted as though he's looking defiantly to his left. I was afraid that the neck sculpt would impede your ability to turn the head facing forward, forever locking him in this pose. Don't worry though - his head turns freely over the front of the neck, and while it looks a little odd if you pay too much attention (since the neck is sculpted as though the head is turned), he can still pull of a straight ahead pose as well.

The Red Son Wonder Woman is extremely nice work as well, with just the right amount of dynamic flow to both her skirt and her hair. Sometimes these get overdone, especially hair, so that the figure ends up looking like she was caught in a wind tunnel. Not so here, where there's enough sculpted motion to appear realistic, without going nuts. And yes, before you weirdo perverts ask me, she's wearing panties.

Thrillkiller Batgirl has a more sleek, sexy, relaxed stance, befitting the character. Unlike WW, who has one fisted hand and one open, both her hands are open, although her left is either giving a gang sign, or designed to hold the batarang.

Batgirl does have a bit of the overdone movement in her hair, but it's partly due to the length. Getting it all to fit on her back, and still give any movement to the head and shoulders, was the real trick. Her belt is a separate piece that floats on her hips, but is not removable. I wish this figure had been out before my poll for best and worst of 2005 started, because I suspect she would have snagged a ton of votes.

Thrillkiller Batman is also great work, although he suffers a bit from being a slightly boring design. The thigh high boots tend to make his legs look chunky, and the large gloves are a bit more mistress of the dark than dark knight. But you can only work with what you have, and there they've done a great job. The shorter cape looks great, and they captured the slightly more intricate cowl (it has a chin 'strap' section around his jaw and chin) not just in paint, but in sculpt as well.

Scale is still wonky.  These fit someplace in between the gargantuan Alex Ross stuff, and the petite Hush figures.  I'm about ready to give up on any hope of similarity between any DC Direct lines.  At least these four look good together!

Paint - RS Supes, TK Batman, RS WW ***1/2; CM Batman, TK Batgirl ***
God knows, DC Direct has had some paint issues, going so far as to allowing collectors to return Identity Crisis figures that they were unhappy with.

There won't be any mass returns on this line, although that doesn't mean it's perfect. They still seem to suffer from a lack of consistency - one Batgirl looks perfect, while the next has issues. That makes it mighty tough on the online buyers.

RS Superman has the best work of the five I picked up. He has fairly clean lines, although the collar and neck show some poor masking. The colors sprayed over large areas like his costume, are nice and consistent, and I love the matted finish of the suit and how it contrasts with the semi-gloss red of the cape. There's a handful of stray marks on the legs and boots, but nothing major enough to cause any real problem.

ThrillKiller Batman also has some very nice work, again using the very glossy finish of the gloves, cape, cowl and boots as a contrast to the very matte finish on the rest of the black uniform. His tampo printed symbol is very straight and clean, as is Superman's. The silver eyes are certainly different, but they stand out nicely, and the face and lips have a realistic tone.

Wonder Woman continues this trend, with 90% of the paint looking amazing, and just a few minor issues holding back that last 10% Her skin tone is even and subdued, and the gray of the skirt is very uniform. The tampo stars are neat with very clean edges, but areas that are masked, like the top of her boots, tend to exhibit bleed and over spray.

The bleeding and sloppy definition between colors is worse on Batgirl, especially on the design of her torso. Just based on a quick glance at the store, I thought she was perfect, but when I got her home and opened up I realized just how sloppy the painted gold emblem on her chest really was. The ears at the top (by her collar bone) are completely off, and the point at the bottom points to her right - while the point at the bottom of the black section points to the left!

One thing that is pretty consistent with all these figures is that it's the masked areas having the biggest issues. Tampos and large sprayed areas are great, as are often the smaller hand painted details. But areas that were masked off in one way or another show signs of bleeding and over spray.

The Crimson Mist Batman is the odd ball, in more ways than one. My complaints here aren't as much in quality but in style. The heavy wash is wiped very clean from all the higher sections of the sculpt, making the dark lines of his legs and arms stick out a tad too much. The wash is also so heavy on the face that much of the fine detail and excellent sculpt is lost, rather than enhanced. However, if the wash looks good to you in this case, then you're unlike to have any other paint problems with the figure.

Articulation - **1/2
If you thought DC Direct might be softening up on including waist joints, forget about it. None of these five sport them.

Superman has a cut neck, ball jointed shoulders, pin elbows and knees, sort of a combination V and T crotch for the hips, and cut wrists at the end of the sleeves. You can get him to stand easily enough, and throw in a couple arm poses, but that's about it. The knee joints are also much thinner than the rest of the leg, and look like they could have trouble with the pegs over time.

Batgirl has a ball jointed neck, but the hair makes it operate pretty much like a cut joint, ball jointed shoulders, pin elbows and knees, a V crotch for the hips, and a cut joint on the biceps at the top of the gloves. That's useful, since she doesn't have any wrist articulation.

Thrillkiller Batman is about the same, but his ball jointed neck does work quite well, and gives the figure much more personality. He also has ball jointed shoulders, pin elbows and knees, a T-joint for the hips, but does not have any bicep or wrist articulation.

Wonder Woman has the ball jointed neck too, but just like Batgirl, the hair makes it fairly useless. She also has ball jointed shoulders, pin elbows and knees, but no cut wrists, although it would seem such an obvious joint to add. It certainly would have been easy to hide with the cuffs, so that can't be the issue. Finally, she has a T joint at the hips, but again, the skirt makes it fairly useless.  NOTE: After some twisting, and some encouragement from readers, I managed to get the wrists to turn at the top of the cuffs.  I've also been told there's a waist joint there, but mine is still painted stuck.

Finally, there's CM Batman. The true incarnation of a 'bat'man, he has ball joints for the wings, ball jointed neck and shoulders, T joint hips, pin elbows and knees, and a cut joint at the top of the gloves. Even with the extreme sculpt, I found him to be the most poseable with the basic articulation.

Accessories - Red Son ***; CM Bats, TK Batgirl, WW **1/2; TK Batman *1/2
There are a couple accessories here. There's two ways to look at that - a) other companies provide a lot more for the same money, so it's a rip off or b) DC Direct usually gives you zippo, so you should be thankfully you're getting anything extra at all. I tend more towards the former.

Ever one of the figures comes with a nice looking Elseworlds stand that includes their unique name, and the name of the Elseworlds comic book series they came from. The stands work pretty well, but I found it more trouble than it's worth with the CM Bats. His long cape is sculpted to work well with his feet on the ground AND the cape on the ground, but the stand is too small to support both. That means the cape hangs off the back, pulling him backwards with it.

If you were expecting anything else with TK Batman, you'll be disappointed. That's it - a display stand. That's fairly common with DC Direct though, so you may not be all that surprised.

CM Batman, TK Batgirl and RS Wonder Woman do slightly better, each coming with one more accessory. They're all pretty small and basic - WW has her lasso, Batgirl has her batarang, and CM Bats has a Bat-gadget version of a stake - so there's nothing to jump up and down over, but at least it's something.

RS Superman also only comes with one accessory, but it's much more impressive. It's a large, flowing flag on a flag pole, which he can hold in his right hand. The sculpt is nice and dynamic, with excellent paint.

Fun Factor - CM Bats ***; the rest **1/2
These aren't really intended as toys, but for the most part, there's nothing stopping them from being such. All are very sturdy, with little change of breakage, at least of the figures themselves. I'm not sure a kid is going to have much fun with either Batgirl or Wonder Woman, and both Supes and TK Batman are in pretty static poses. But if your kids want to play with a truly unique and spooky version of Batman, then the Crimson Mist is just the ticket.

Value - **1/2
DC Direct figures are finally down in the region of a reasonable, average market price. You can pick them up for around $13 at most online stores, and if you're buying a full set, get them as cheap as $10 each. Do that, and you can add another half star to this score.

Things to watch out for - 
Well, there's paint, then there's paint, and finally, I'd watch the paint. As usual, my biggest gripe with these figures is paint, although it is clear DC Direct is trying to improve. Unfortunately, none of the five characters I saw were consistently good throughout the shipment, so you should pay extra attention to the paint on each one you pick up.

Overall -  Red Son Superman, Crimson Mist Batman ***1/2; Thrillkiller Batman and Batgirl, Red Son Wonder Woman ***
Hey, I'll admit I can be weak at times. But generally speaking, when I go to the store believing I won't buy something, I don't buy it. The fact that I was only going to get one of these, but ended up with all five, speaks volumes to the overall improvement in quality over some other recent DC Direct releases.

There's still some of the basic issues - articulation, accessories, price - but none of these should be a surprise to the regular DC Direct buyer. The paint ops still show some minor inconsistencies, but it's a huge step up from some of the past disappointments. Combine that with the fact that both these versions and the stories they're based on are generally good, and you have a winning combination.

Packaging - **1/2
Sculpt - CM Bats, RS Supes ****; TK Batgirl, TK Batman, RS WW ***1/2
Paint - RS Supes, TK Batman, RS WW ***1/2; CM Batman, TK Batgirl ***
Articulation - **1/2
Accessories - Red Son ***; CM Bats, TK Batgirl, WW **1/2; TK Batman *1/2
Fun Factor - CM Bats ***; the rest **1/2
Value - **1/2
Overall - Red Son Superman, Crimson Mist Batman ***1/2; Thrillkiller Batman and Batgirl, Red Son Wonder Woman ***

Where to Buy -
This shipped to comic shops last week, but you can also find them at the following sponsors online:

- YouBuyNow had the individual figures for just $12 each.

- Circle Red has the full set of five for just $50, and some of the individual figures as cheap as $13.

- Alter Ego Comics has the full set of five figures for just $50, and they have a preorder up for the full set of five series 2 figures, also just $50.

- CornerStoreComics has the individuals for $13 each, or the full set for $55.

- Amazing Toyz has the full set for $55, and the singles for $13.

- Yikes has the full set for $55, or the singles for $15 each.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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