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Mattel DCUC Alexander Luthor/Ultraman 2-Pack

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Mattel DCUC Alexander Luthor/Ultraman 2-Pack aka The Battle for Earth-3.

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One of the more off-the-wall choices in Mattel’s series of 2-packs was Alexander Luthor and Ultraman. While not as unlikely as the Animal Man/B’Wana Beast set, this was still a seriously niche duo in the eyes of the average collector. And while the “heroic” version of Earth-Three’s Lex Luthor alone wasn’t likely to sell many units, the inclusion of Superman’s evil alternate reality counterpart Ultraman provided a hook few fans could resist.

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Starting a new team by including the first member in a box set was typical Mattel thinking. If a collector wanted a complete Crime Syndicate on his shelf, he was forced to buy this 2-pack to begin the group. Of course, DC Universe Classics wouldn’t revisit the team again until the Crime Syndicate 5-pack three years later — and that set included an Ultraman, making the original redundant. Heh heh heh. One of these days, Matty. Bang! Zoom! Straight to the moon!

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Ultra was the “easy” figure in the set, only requiring a new head, cape and plastic overlay. Other than a characteristically-nasty expression on his face, there’s not much going on with him. While the “U” on his chest is comic-accurate it’s also oversized and wonky-looking. The cape is nice, but it’s made of the same stiff plastic that plagued many Mattel figures and makes the figure unwieldy. Costume details like his wrist-bracers and boot-cuffs are rendered with basic paint apps. It’s not wrong, it’s just… disappointing.

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The seams in Mattel’s long-term game-plan were starting to show here — Ultra is just too unadorned to look like like anything other than a cash-grab. Something as simple as a new set of open hands would have gone a long way towards improving the figure, but the commitment simply isn’t there. Ultra is molded in his primary colors with minimal overspray to accentuate the sculpted detail.

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Alexander Luthor is where the money went and it shows. The figure gets a new head, a tunic-style overlay, a unique belt, and lower arms. At first I thought the boot cuffs were new pieces as well, but some sleuthing revealed they are in fact the series one Red Tornado’s cuffs upside-down. Pretty sneaky, Matty.

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Luthor gets a highly-detailed head sculpt. With his ornamental helmet, archaic facial hair, and stern expression, there’s something of the Four Horsemen’s Masters of the Universe Classics style to the head, although that’s more coincidence than design.

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The tunic has a high, militaristic collar, “hemmed” edges, and a large textured L-shaped insignia. His belt looks appropriately tech-y, if not terribly comfortable; the small sculpted buttons and grill-patterned buckle are cleanly defined, popping nicely against the pearlized gold plastic the piece is cast in. Aesthetically similar cuffs feature fabric-like creases along the wrists, terminating in the standard DCUC stock gloved hands.

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Luthor is also richer in the paint department, with some striking gold accents to set him apart from his box-mate. The paint on his head is notable, with some impressively tight work on his facial features and beard. The paint app on his tunic is sharp and even, as are smaller details like the hash-marks down his legs and the buttons on his belt. There’s a little slop here and there, but that’s more of a nitpick than worthwhile criticism.

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Here is where personal bias creeps into this review. A figure like Alexander Luthor may be beautifully sculpted, have perfect paint and great articulation, but if it lacks that intangible quality known as “fun” then it just doesn’t work for me. For example, in spite of being the exact same figure Mattel has sold us half a dozen times already, these Batman can still offer some momentary pleasure as toys.

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But Alexander Luthor? His addition to my shelf was a joyless one. His stoic dullness, coupled with his ambiguous place in comic book continuity makes him a resounding dud. All of the extra work done to make the figure comic-accurate is laudable, the effort shown is exemplary — but it’s wasted because Alexander Luthor is boring. Let the Fwoosh Earth-3 flame-war commence.

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Both figures are in the 6-inch scale and move at the same critical points: barbell neck, pin-and-hinge shoulders, bicep swivels, single hinged elbows, and wrist swivels. The torsos are the standard t-crunches, the waists swivel, the hips are pin-and-hinge over swivel calves with single-jointed knees and ankles. Luthor’s tunic was molded in a softer rubber to allow his t-crunch to move freely, but mine is still oddly limited. To quote Hedley Lamarr: why do I always get a warped one?

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Apparently the Battle for Earth-3 was fought without weapons, as the set is bereft of extras. And while it could be argued accessories would be pointless since both figures have fists, no one reading this article would turn up their nose at some extra kryptonite or a replica of the bottle-city of Kandor. It’s missed opportunities like this that compound the already uninspiring subject matter, pushing these figures to the back of the display.

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In the box these are two odd, but eye-catching, figures. Freed of their packaging, they are less exciting. While not a bad product by any means, this set’s combination of a figure we thought we needed but didn’t, plus a figure we never wanted to begin with makes it a hard pill to swallow. That said, if you’re a DCUC completionist or just really into dudes with letters on their chests, you can find this set for cheap on Amazon.com. Tell ’em Anthill sent you.

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Jason R Mink is the Man in the Anthill!