REVIEW: Justice Buster Build-a-Figure
Our contributor Kenneth Yu does an in-depth review of Mattel’s build-a-figure offering, the Justice Buster as seen from the Scott Snyder Batman story arc “Endgame”.
I hate Mattel.
Sorry, I just had to get that out of the way. Mattel is the primary toy license-holder for DC Comics, and I feel they’ve never done right by DC. This is worse when you consider that the competition, Hasbro, has been consistently pushing the envelope with the Marvel Universe license.
So, yeah, I hate Mattel– but I also love Batman and the rest of the DC cast. When I saw that Mattel was making a figure out of the armor Batman wears to beat up the rest of the DC cast, I had to pick it up.
JUSTICE BUSTER – THE CHARACTER
This is the Justice Buster, the build-a-figure from Waves 1 and 2 of Mattel’s DC Comics Multiverse “Collect and Connect” series. It’s based on the powered armor that Batman wears in Batman #35, “Endgame part 1,” as he lays the beatdown on a Justice League that has been turned against him. (The issue is awesome. Go read it. In fact, go read the entire Scott Snyder / Greg Capullo run on Batman.)
As this is a build-a-figure, most people are going to have to pick him up as separate parts, included with a whole bunch of other action figures. To build this guy, you’ll have to get 6 figures: The Arrow, The Flash, Reverse Flash, Endgame Joker, Earth 23 Superman and Zero Year Batman. If I remember correctly, full sets should currently be available in most mall toy sections, so it shouldn’t be too tough to hunt this guy down, if you’re willing to spend enough cash.
I managed to purchase mine out-of-box, in a hobby shop. (JAE Collectibles, in the SM Mega Mall basement) He cost around Php 5000 – pricey, but apparently at par with eBay prices at the moment. Last I checked, there’s still at least one more of this available there.
Head on, this guy’s got a solid sculpt. He’s big, wide and intimidating, especially when staring down normal-sized DC or Marvel Legends figures. He has clearly-delineated armor plates, with the big slabs on his fists and shins looking properly protective. There’s interesting weather / damage detailing and some tech lines, but nothing too sharp.
Accuracy-wise, the figure is inconsistent. His head feels small, and his eyes feel too big. (No, seriously, the head on the source material was massive. http://vsbattles.wikia.com/wiki/File:Justice_Buster_4.png ). The detailing also seems off at some points– the toy has large black fins that cover the entire shoulder pad, but the original art has much smaller, sharper spikes that are attached near the tips of the shoulder plate.
From behind, he still looks solid, maintaining the bulky silhouette. Again, we get these cool little nicks and pits in the armor, and technological details like the little jump-jets / exhausts on his back.
From the side, things begin to fall apart a little. He’s narrow, and has a very flat outline. It feels kind of like looking at a brick wall- it’s huge and expansive in front and behind, but is just a very tall box from the side. This is not how the Buster was drawn by Greg Capullo– that thing was meaty and substantial-looking from all angles.
Not much for me to talk about here. Most of the figure is cast in a grey, slightly metallic plastic. This gives the figure kind of a mass-market feel, but I suppose this isn’t surprising. There are step and black highlights, which work pretty well to keep the figure from looking like a single slab of grey plastic. There are black, stamped details on the top of the head, but they seem a bit misaligned.
What Mattel does get points for is the paint work on the eyes. They’re very cleanly painted, with a two-tone blue scheme that makes them look nice and glowy. Poorly-painted eyes can really ruin a toy for me, so I’m very happy about the care that’s been put into these particular paint applications.
This is where I get a little salty. The articulation on this figure is substandard, even for a large figure. Let’s go from top to bottom.
The neck joint is very good. It’s a single ball joint with an excellent range of motion, allowing up, down, left, right and tilt movements. One callout: tilting the head up too far makes the underlying joint a bit obvious.There’s very little mass left under that head, to give the joint clearance.
The shoulder joints are decent. They’re peg/hinge joints, so you’ll get the full forward and back, in and out articulation, until you hit the shoulder pads. The shoulder pads themselves are a bit soft, so you may be able to force the arms out a little further before they pop out or get pushed back down.
The elbows are unimpressive. They’re peg/hinge joints, so you get both a normal elbow bend and the turning motion that you usually get from bicep swivels. There’s not much bending to be done here, though; because of the mass of the gauntlets, the elbows only bend about 20 degrees from a straight arm. This makes the figure pretty awkward when you want fighting stances.
There is no articulation in the wrists or fingers, and no way to turn the fist sideways without turning the entire arm.
The torso has a single ab hinge joint, with a relatively limited range of motion. It’s useful for switching between a slight crouch and a full standing position, but not for much else.
There is no waist or torso swivel. At all. This is pretty crippling, as it prevents the figure from looking really good in punching poses. Powerful punches (especially in comics) require a strong twist of the torso, and this figure is going to give you NONE of that. Sorry.
The hips are alright. They’re a hinge joint, with pegs on both the crotch-side and the thigh-side. This means you get full forward/ back / in / out movement, plus a thigh swivel. Because of the lack of options for posing in the torso, most of your dynamic posing is going to depend on these joints, so it’s good that they’re relatively flexible, and secure.
The knees are pretty good. They’re just a single hinge, but they give you a full 90 degree bend, at the maximum. That’s quite impressive, considering how lackluster the elbows were.
There are no ankle joints. Or toes. Or any joints, below the knee. This is another blow to the overall articulation, as the figure’s feet are relatively small. It’s actually pretty difficult to get this guy standing properly, because most dynamic poses will force him to stand on one foot, plus one or two points on the other foot.
We get nothing. This isn’t surprising, considering that the parts to make this figure are effectively “accessories” for the other toys in the line.
I’m disappointed anyway. This bad boy could have come with some awesome anti-Justice-League weapon effects. Where’s the water-absorbent foam? The bind of veils / lasso of lies? The red sun knuckles?
“The suit isn’t just armor. It’s designed for war. With the most powerful heroes on the planet.” (https://comicnewbies.com/2014/11/16/batmans-justice-buster-suit-vs-wonder-woman/)
You hear that, Mattel? It’s like Bruce saw you coming.
Usually, I’d use this space to discuss some easy fixes / improvements that you can do to the figure, to make it really work well. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much I could do for this big guy.
The big bat-ears on his head and the black spikes on his shoulders were a little crooked, so I put them under a hair dryer and straightened them out, before placing them under running water to set the plastic again.
I still hate Mattel.
Sure, I’ll give it to them: the Justice Buster is an excellent character pick. He’s cool-looking and iconic, even if he only showed up in one issue. He’s the kind of character hardcore Batman fans will jump at, and he looks just cool enough to fit on any mech-lover’s shelf. (At one point, I want to try displaying him next to my Pacific Rim jaegers from NECA.)
But the general appearance of the Buster the only thing this toy has going for it. The articulation is substandard, the paint is skimpy, and the details are inaccurate. You’re likely to just find one solid pose for this guy, and leave it on display.
As a toy, it’s pretty limited.
As a 5000 peso / buy-six-other-figures-first toy, it’s painful.
If you’re a fan of this particular armor, we don’t really have much of a choice, as this is the only available figure of the Justice Buster. It’s conceivable that DC Collectibles will make their own (superior) figure of this guy eventually, but I have no way of knowing whether it’ll ever happen.
If you’re a Batman fan, or a mecha toy collector who wants a cool giant-robot-looking Batman, steer clear. DC Collectibles’ Trasher Suit Batman is a superior choice, with much better articulation, paint and overall feel. (And if you /do/ go buy that, hit me up! I have a really awesome fix that gives articulation to the neck– the one place that figure underperforms.)