Evil alien menaces battles the Justice League of America...

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Mattel has a long history of innovative package design, coming up with some truly unique presentations over the years. I have a feeling that come 2011 when we look back at a year full of releases one of the top spots will go to that company’s San Diego Comic-Con exclusive DC Universe Infinite Heroes Starro the Conqueror Introduction of the JLA. This thing has it all, from dynamic poses to classic inspiration, lights, sounds, and more! Oh, and the figures inside are pretty cool too!

With a new slate of popular superheroes in the late 1950s, DC Comics created a super team in the Justice League of America. Debuting in The Brave and the Bold #28, the group of heroes needed a suitable villain to oppose them, and thus Starro was born. A giant one-eyed alien starfish, Starro had great physical power as well as the ability to produce miniature clones of itself that can control humanoids by attaching to their faces. Marauding through Rhode Island, the menace was halted only when by the cooperation of Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, and Wonder Woman. Realizing their power in numbers, they founded the Justice League of America.

Mattel’s Starro set comes packaged in a huge outer cardboard box that looks good on its own. Primarily blue, the front and back are emblazoned with a giant version of the new DC Universe Infinite Heroes 75th Anniversary image with the “Trinity” of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman front and center. It’s interesting that they went with this image that has nothing to do with the item inside; there aren’t even any words! Anyway, you really want to open that outer box...

Because inside you’ll find the star of the show, Starro! As Mattel advertised, the box really does look and feel like a museum display case. Recreating the Brave and the Bold cover, the figures are posed in combat with the alien monster, suspended in the packaging along with an authentic background image and cover elements like the title at the top.

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cT9ZCWh2fj0]YouTube - SDCC10 Exclusive Mattel DC Infinite Heroes Starro the Conqueror[/ame]

Below all of the action you’ll find a solid base with three important elements on the front side. In the middle is a plaque with the title “Starro the Conqueror Introduction of the JLA” with a speaker on the right and a button on the left. Press the button and the packaging comes alive with different colored lights and voice narration by Kevin Conroy (the voice of Batman in many animated series and films). The lights turn on and off in a pattern as Conroy describes the Justice League’s introduction and battle against Starro, then how the issue marked the first time the team and Aquaman were on the cover. Finally, by pressing the button you can rotate around the group and hear Conroy describe each character in turn.

Meanwhile, the back side of the box has four reproductions of four Starro-starring comic book covers: Brave and the Bold #28, Justice League of America Vol. 1 #190, Justice League of America Vol. 2 #4, and Teen Titans #52. No matter how many times the alien is defeated, it always seems to come back...

Seeing as it’s the star of the show, let’s first take a look at Starro. The creature is not necessarily an easy character to translate into plastic. Miniature Starro Spores (or Starrophytes) have appeared as accessories in the JLU and Batman: Brave and the Bold lines, while there was an in-scale Starro only in the HeroClix game. Scaled to its 3 inch Infinite Heroes opponents, this Starro is a huge chunk of rubber at 10 inches from point to point. Surprisingly heavy, the alien has a thick central body radiating into five points. On the top of the creature is a giant eye, while the underside hides a hideous mouth.

The sculpt on this toy is surprisingly good, with all sorts of disturbing details like nubbed fringes around the points, eyelids, and that mouth... ::shudder:: It’s also very accurate with respect to coloring, a light blue on top that darkens to purple around the edges, with pink on the nubs and mouth. The great central eye has a black pupil, red iris, and white cornea. Beyond just looking good, Starro is actually poseable! That’s right, there are metal armatures in the points so you can pose the creature and it’ll stay in that position.

For fans of the Infinite Heroes line (like me), this set is awesome for the figures it contains. There are five figures in here, with a nice mix of repainted and new elements. Each figure is also an improvement over previous versions (where applicable). Let’s do a quick rundown of each. But first, a brief primer on Infinite Heroes bodies. Version 1.0 had simple articulation: neck, ball-jointed shoulders, elbows, waist, hips, and knees. Version 2.0 stepped it up with ball-jointed elbows, forearms, ball-jointed knees, and ball-jointed ankles. Finally, the mighty Version 3.0 added ball-jointed hips and thigh articulation while swapping out the awkward forearm joints for wrists. On the female side there has been only one body style so far, articulated at the neck, shoulders, torso, V-crotch hips, and knees.

Flash characters are very well represented in the Infinite Heroes line, starting from the very first set of releases. The Flashes began with Wally West and moved backward all the way for a Jay Garrick figure before we ever got a Barry Allen. The first one came in the Mattycollector exclusive set of Crisis figures, but that one captured Allen as he was dying, complete with melty face. Just recently there was a regular Barry Allen release, a simple repaint of the original Wally figure. Finally, Barry gets his due in the Starro set. This figure is built on the Infinite Heroes 3.0 body, with its vastly increased articulation. The only differences in sculpt are the tiny wings on Flash’s boots and a really great new head. Barry’s costume is bright red with the appropriate yellow accents (including correct horizontal lightning across the waist and forearms) and chest logo. The figure is even accurate down to the bright blue eyes!

Infinite Heroes have also played host to several members of the Green Lantern Corps, and specifically four prior versions of Hal Jordan. The original figure and a green version of it utilized the Infinite Heroes 1.0 body, while the First Flight and modern versions had the better 2.0 body. This new JLA member represents Hal at the beginning of his career when he wore a more rigid, basic Green Lantern uniform. Essentially, the green section of his uniform has vertical borders over his shoulders, while later the color would extend over them. The figure itself is actually a repaint of the First Flight figure with its distinctive angular mask and S-curl haircut, which works really well for this classic look.

Martian Manhunter only recently appeared in the Infinite Heroes lineup in the final wave of Crisis figures. Its 3.0 body was adorned with sculpted boots, a unique head, and a massive cape clasped at the neck. For the Starro version, Mattel repainted the existing figure. Where the original had dark blue trunks, boots, and cape, the classic version has light blue. Likewise, his belt buckle is now white instead of yellow, and the clasp around his neck is unpainted (just the blue plastic of the cape). While those might not be big changes, there is one more thing that really changes the character of the figure. While the original figure had red eyes, this one has painted eyebrows and eyes with black pupils and white corneas, giving him a much more “human” look.

One of the best things about this set is that it includes the first and only Infinite Heroes Aquaman figure, and it’s awesome! Built on the 3.0 body, Curry has all of the articulation you could want (while still being sturdy and able to stand on his own), with a great head sculpt and unique details like the fins on his gloves and lower legs and “A” belt logo. His costume is classically-inspired, with the orange scaled shirt, yellow gloves and belt, black trunks, and green legs. Aquaman has a serene but tough expression on his face, and his wavy blonde hair is sculpted in such a way that it could be floating in the water or wet and tousled on dry land.

Finally, the exclusive set includes a brand new version of Wonder Woman. Another character who’s no stranger to the Infinite Heroes line, Diana has appeared in three different configurations including a modern and animated film style. Until the Starro set, every female character in Infinite Heroes has been based on the same body (tall, busty, and somewhat lacking in articulation). Now, the ladies get an upgrade of their own. Classic Wonder Woman has ball-jointed hips and thigh articulation where the previous figures had a V-crotch, as well as ball-jointed knees. The usual tradeoffs are still in effect (bulkier hips), but she is much more poseable than previous figures. Diana also has a brand new head sculpt that really captures her early Silver Age look. Her traditional red, white, blue, and gold colors are extra bright and vivid, and she really stands out from the crowd!

While the Infinite Heroes are not known for their accessories, there is actually a couple included in this set... sort of. There’s one honest to goodness accessory, a fantastic green energy construct for Hal Jordan. Fitting over his right hand, the translucent piece represents energy radiating from his ring to form a big green fist. It attaches very well and isn’t so heavy that it pulls him over while wielding it. Every Lantern figure should come with something like this! To spice up the look of the figures in the packaging even more, Mattel included Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth. To be honest, it’s just a golden string, but it’s still a little added fun.

The Starro set is really great, and was a fantastic deal for only $50. But, those who purchased it at SDCC got something extra on top of the cool package and figures. That, of course, was the little plastic bag holding four Starro Spores (otherwise known as Starrophytes). Now, if the spores were done in Infinite Heroes scale they’d have to be really, really small. So, instead Mattel made these to fit on your DC Universe Classics figure! They look just like miniature versions of the big guy, complete with all-seeing eye and creepy underbelly. Best of all, they’re pre-molded in a grasping “pose” so that they can easily fit on the faces of your unsuspecting heroes.

If you missed out on Starro and the Justice League at the big show, you still have an opportunity to pick them up when Mattel releases more inventory on Mattycollector. Unfortunately, you won’t be getting the exclusive Starro Spores, but that’s what exclusives are for. Good hunting!

For even more images of the SDCC Starro Exclusive Figure Set, CLICK HERE!

Review and Photos by Scott Rubin