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…