DC Universe Classics Crime Syndicate of Amerika Review

One of the nice things about Walmart picking up DC Universe Classics has been their insistence on having an annual multi-pack on their shelves. While store exclusives can sometimes bring a dose of aggravation, I’m happy to see the 5pks in the line – particularly this year’s pack, based on the Crime Syndicate of Amerika.

In 1964, Justice League of America #29 debuted a new world into the Earth-1 & Earth-2 crossovers – Earth-3! Earth-3 was your standard mirror universe filled with evil doppelgangers of our favorites heroes… sorta. In some ways, it’s simply an odd mirror Earth – Columbus was an American that discovered Europe while Abe Lincoln was an actor that killed President John Wilkes Booth. Despite those differences though, things basically turn out the same. Except, of course, that five of our favorite heroes are criminals: Ultraman, Owlman, Superwoman, Johnny Quick, & Power Ring (I trust I don’t have to point out who’s who?). In this first incarnation, their world goes largely unexplored, writers instead choosing to focus on the titanic battles between them and our familiar heroes. In an odd twist, they lose to the JLA in the first issue, and then lose to the JSA in the second issue – but this was all according to plan. The CSA is simply in search of a fair match between themselves and the JLA. Earth-2 means no home court advantage. Sadly, it’s still a battle they lose all too quickly in the closing pages of Justice League of America #30.

Now, I happen to love the CSA, but they’re not particularly noteworthy. After that first appearance, they were lost to limbo for almost fifteen years.

A cameo here or there aside, the CSA goes unused until a run-in with Captain Comet in the pages of Secret Society of Super-Villains (the cover of the second issue even points out “Back after 14 years!”). They next appear in 1982, with another turn against the JLA/JSA (technically, the All-Star Squadron) in 1982 (Lex Luthor is also added as Earth-3’s only hero in a story featuring only Ultraman that year). The only other noteworthy appearance of the CSA is their death in Crisis on Infinite Earths. I imagine it’s that brief appearance that kept these villains relatively high profile despite only appearing a handful of times before it. Everyone read Crisis.

In 2000, Morrison brought the CSA back for modern times in JLA: Earth 2. His version originated from an anti-matter universe that was a much darker world than the original. The Crime Syndicate ruled with an iron fist and the very nature of the universe bent toward corruption and evil. The teams never combat directly, instead switching places only to find that they can’t succeed on the opposite Earths. The JLA fails to make any positive impact on the Anti-Matter Earth while Aquaman & Martian Manhunter* quickly take down the invading CSA. The story is fantastically more complex, I’m just lifting out the basics here, so if you haven’t read it – check it out.

* – I’ve always hated that the CSA wasn’t a seven-man team (let alone that Atom & GA were also active members during the first CSA crossover) though Aquaman does have a rarely seen counterpart and the modern Ultraman does mention that he once killed a white Martian.

The reason that I outlined both histories of the team is because this 5pk doesn’t give you a whole team. It’s a mixture of the two versions, though that may not have been Mattel’s intent. If you toss in the Ultraman from the 2009 2pk, each of the two versions of the team are now missing only two members. Fans of the original must go without a vintage Owlman & Superwoman while fans of the modern version are missing out on the legacy Power Ring & Johnny Quick. Now Mattel may have intended to simply give us the current version of the CSA – with Hal Jordan returned & Barry Allen being foisted upon us, it stands to reason that their doppelgangers would return as well. Personally, I want all ten of them so this pack being mixed (or not) doesn’t bother me in the slightest – I just have to cross my fingers that we get the other four someday.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty, I probably should mention the price of this 5pk. It’s a seemingly insane $74.88. While I long for the days of a multi-pack being value-priced (that is, less than buying the figures separately), I did not hesitate to buy the set. It is the equivalent price of five figures, but, in the last two years, we’ve paid $55 for four repaints and a Luthor with a little tooling and then for four repaints with swapped heads and a Guy Gardner with a little tooling. While I don’t like paying $75 this year, I do feel like it was a better deal. For one, there’s more tooling and two, all five figures are going on my shelves. There’s no keeping the Luthor and Two-Face and boxing up the others or despising the tiny-headed Sinestro and boxing up multiple Johns and Hals (though, to be fair, white-templed Hal is my go-to Hal). The price isn’t great, but the 5pk is – so, no, I didn’t hesitate.

We’ve already received an Ultraman in the line, but I much prefer this one. There are four pieces of new tooling (biceps, lower torso, and the belt). I neglected to get a picture of Ultraman from behind so you could see his elbow pads, but they are there. The three ‘eggs’ on his belt are an inset piece with the torso. Everything else is reused, including the head sculpt – which I’ve gone from kinda liking to loving. The heat vision effect was cool on the classic one, but the head looks much better with painted eyes. The basic articulation is all there and I didn’t have any stuck or gummy joints on Ultraman. The paint work is sharp on mine – but you have to watch out because some folks are finding Ultraman with an unpainted neck.

The only complaint I have on this figure is a lack of accuracy and it’s one I could kick myself for not complaining about when we first saw it at Toy Fair – his fists should be blue. I don’t know if we could’ve gotten Mattel to change it or not, but I would’ve liked to try. The figure doesn’t look wrong with the flesh hands, but I do wish they would’ve caught that detail.

Johnny Quick features one piece of new tooling, the head sculpt. I love all the head sculpts in the box set, but Johnny’s is great because of its cocky expression. This guy knows he’s faster than you and it shows. Flash’s boots are reused to give this guy some accurate feet, but strangely the fists on the 2-up have been replaced by open hands again. Is the fist tool just busy? The open hands aren’t a deal breaker, but it’s odd that the open hands are cropping up on more figures that don’t need them of late. Articulation is what we’ve come to expect (missing those rocker ankles on a runner though) and I had no stuck or gummy joints on Johnny. Continue to Page 2…

32 thoughts on “DC Universe Classics Crime Syndicate of Amerika Review

  1. I too hope for the spare costumes. I think the reason they picked the costumes they did was for cost/tooling reasons. If the Infinite Earths sub takes off, it’s the perfect place to give us our missing costumes.

  2. And wait– are you saying you don’t display your 5-pack Luthor? I love that classic costume! It’s the only reason I bought that pack.

      1. Speaking of which… do you have any pictures of your DCUC collection online? I’d love to see it.

        1. There’s a couple small pics in the Swamp Thing thread on the forum. I’m on my phone so I don’t have a link handy. It’s a staged pic, my shelves are always in disarray because of the photoshoots. 🙂

  3. By coincidence I recently found Justice League of America #50 from 2010. This issue has this same mixed version of the CSA, with new Owlman, Ultraman and Superwoman along with classic Power Ring and Johnny Quick. Still, in the issue Johnny has a different helmet, but its supposed to be the same character.

    1. I avoid Robinson anymore, but I’d heard of that issue – Robinson tries to go for an Alan Scott type origin for Power Ring, right?

  4. You didn’t mention it, but I’m assuming the Dr. Mid-Nite picture is a forearm re-use reference 😉

    I’m really wanting this set, but my cash-flow situation is a little tight at the moment and I’ve had a few let-downs from guys in the states picking stuff up for me recently.

    Though yeah, I’d love to see the helmeted Jonny Quick (and Wally, hero Jonny Quick, Jesse Quick, Walter, Jay, Max Mercury, Impulse…)


    1. I always wonder if it’s Mattel or DC making them focus in Barry. Either way, the Flash franchise has been thrown away at this point. I can’t believe how few Speedsters we got.

      And, yea, I did forget – but I needs me a Dr. Mid-Nite!!

  5. Great review, I need to pick this set up. Wish Mattel would give the speedsters some love like they did the Lanterns.

  6. Well-done review as usual, and the pics make the set look better than any I’ve seen elsewhere. That last one had me laughing out loud.

    With the eyes painted on the Ultraman head, they really captured a hint of Frank Quitely’s version in there.

  7. Great set and great reviews. I ordered on on walmart and got the correct bare neck version, so I am very happy. I wonder if those are the only ones they are shipping. $74.99 is tuff, but considering how new most of this is, it comes out about 16 a figure (minus CnC I know but still)

    One thing you forgot to point out is in addition to the fact that they did not include a power battery for Power Ring, a lasso for Superwoman, and a helmet for Quick (all 3 you did point out) , all those things are mentioned in the bios on the box. Seems like they should have included those items or changed the bios to not have that info right? Would a lasso and power battery really have cost that much extra on Mattels end? Also, why do 3 of the characters art on the box not match the toy? (only PR and JQ match). I think it is because the art is all from one comic cover, so they did not want to mix and match?

    1. Thanks!

      I forgot to mention the packaging, but you’re spot on. Classic versions all around – remind me that we’ll likely never know how they were going to do Ivy in the sub.

      As for the missing accessories, it comes down to units sold and if WM can order as many units as a wave normally sells to all outlets (well, they can, but do they). The lowered production run eats up the money saved on the C&Cs. That said, things like Superwoman’s lasso could’ve been reused if they’d already done it. I love WW’s gear but a coiled lasso that clipped to her belt and a lariat would’ve made for a cooler toy.

  8. This will hopefully be my Christmas gift this year, as I got the GL 5-pk last year for Christmas. I too hate the outrageous price hike! Good god, $75 for this, when the other 5-pk was only, what $60? I’m going to hate myself for asking for this for Christmas, but it’ll be worth it for this set. I think after this, I’m going to retire from collecting action figures; they’re too much money nowadays with so little reward in return. I just turned 30, so this would be a good set to go out/quit with.

    1. Good luck with Christmas!! 😀

      I’m in for the long haul, but it’s Wave20 that looks like an attractive stopping point for me. That wave is so poorly thrown together, I have almost zero excitement (beyond the Reverse Flash). Wave 19 feels like the last hurrah.

  9. I’ve seen this set at a couple StL stores and even in Louisville this past weekend. Something kept holding me off about this, and I guess it was likely the cost without seeing a review of the set or anything, first?

    I didn’t realize (remember?) that the main difference between this JQ and the Earth2 update was just the head, which means he will be easier to (re)make down the line, fingers crossed.

    I did notice, however, that Power Ring’s head looks a lot like Parallax’s and maybe this is a step towards that character?

    Super Woman – are we sure that’s not just the Donna Troy figure base? I’d love to see a height comparison pic with her.

    UltaMan’s hands are a minor complaint. Of the sets I did see, I didn’t notice any blue necks.

    Owlman is the clincher for me, an 99% of why I almost bought the first set I saw, if not for the price. Dude looks awesome.

    and btw, the JLA/ASS/CSA crossover was one of the first arcs i picked up, so this team holds a special place in my childhood (and probably 90% of the reason i love alternate history stories!)

    1. The modern JQ should have red gloves now that I think about it, but I’d forgive that inaccuracy in a heartbeat for two heads.

      And, yes on Parallax! I’m not usually in favor of reusing heads, but it would totally work in this case.

  10. Great review on these, Noisey….

    It’s funny that out of all the sets… This one’s been the hardest for me to find. I didn’t realize that the CSA had such sparse apperances before crisis. It seems they were really under used. It looks like the done a great job w/this set.

    1. Thanks! They really were nearly forgotten – the cover to their appearance in Secret Society of Super-Villains cracks me up every time.

      Good luck in your search!

  11. Love the CSA, but cash is very tight so I cannot get this pack, Maybe later but for now I have to say pass. Still it is very cool this pack was made and I can’t wait to try to get it when the moneys straighten out.

  12. Great review! I was really happy to see a set full of original characters was going to be the next 5 pack, but the $75 is a huge turn off. I can see the logic behind justifying that price compared to buying a $50 set for the 1 or 2 figures you want in there and I’ve got a feeling this set won’t be the biggest hit with kids.

    Have you tried standing Owlman and hitting his cape with a hair dryer for a few minutes? It should help it regain at least some of it’s intended shape.

  13. Nice review!

    I think Ultraman’s cape is new too but that choker on Superwoman might be from Black Canary. My BC is stored so I can’t check it.

    EVERY fig in my set had a stuck joint somewhere!?!?! UM & SW both had stuck hip joints. UM & OM had gummy torsos. OM also had a stuck bicep swivel. JQ’s head was completely stuck…no swivel or up & down movement and PR had a stuck thigh swivel!?!?!?

    Luckily, I was able to free up every joint with 0 breakages! What a friggin relief! The boiling water does wonders for these and my brother and I also developed a small hand tool to turn the frozen hip disk…so far it’s worked 100% on over 5 figures!

    This set rocks!! I am too hoping we see the two teams completed. I know the classic Owlman’s design is campy but could you imagine how cool it will be in the Horsemen’s hands?!?! That stupid owl on top of his head would look deadly once they got finished with it! Hell, they made Killer Moth’s classic duds look sweet…no doubt they could do the same for OM. Come oooooooon subscription!!!

    1. Good call on Canary and I’m glad to hear you unstuck your figures! I’ve heard a lot of that with this set.

      And, yeah, a vintage 4H Owlman would indeed be sweet! Stay tuned, right?

  14. Does anyone know about any error packages? I found one that had Batman, Superman, and John Stewart instead of Owlman, Ultraman, and Power Ring. Any info would be great!

    1. Are you sure that’s an error and not an unscrupulous collector returning the 5 pk with older figures substituted in?

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