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Review: 70912 Arkham Asylum

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Arkham Asylum is one of the more recognizable elements of the Batman mythos. Relatively modern, showing up in 1974, but usually designed after some very gothic or victorian “hospitals,” it is where the worst of the victims of the Batman get put to be… I guess tortured? Cause it doesn’t seem like anyone that goes there for any sort of medical care. I mean, honestly, the whole of Gotham seems to be one very long string of civil rights and medical violations, so I’m curious how this place functions.

I called dibs on reviewing 70912 Arkham Asylum as soon as the initial pictures were revealed last year. I owned multiple copies of the first one, which reduced the sanatarium down to a series of customized sheds. A new version was released in 2012 in the Super Heroes line, which I was never impressed enough with to actually purchase. It dropped the shed look to go for something more of a facade, but it didn’t feel like it had much style and only a couple of the minifigures struck me as interesting. The $160 price tag didn’t exactly help on that decision, either, even with eight minifigures.

Perhaps the most insane thing about this third version is that the price is lower, dropping down to $149.99 in the US, it has a few more parts (1628… 9 more), and a whopping twelve minifigures. More than that, it’s obvious that this thing is just dripping with a very specific style that the other big set, the Batcave, sorely lacked. While you can see some similarities in the build to the previous Arkham sets, there’s a whole lot more that’s new and unique that you don’t feel like it’s just another rehash… I hope.

That was my biggest fear for this set, after I built the Batcave. When I reviewed that set, the biggest problem is that it felt so much like the earlier versions of the set with a few minor changes. Worst, it felt nothing at all like the Batcave we’ve seen in the trailers. We haven’t really seen anything at all around Arkham, at least not enough to notice (it might have been in the background, I don’t recall), which means it doesn’t have anything to live up to until the movie comes out next month.

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There are a lot of minifigures in this set, so I’m going to split them all up. The first batch up, we get the villains. All of them are sporting Arkham jumpsuits, with both male and female varieties (the female one have very subtle curve shading). We get Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Riddler, Two-Face, and the Joker.

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I question the logic of allowing Catwoman to keep her mask, gloves, and utility belt while imprisoned. Despite the fact that she’s a thief, outside of Batman Returns, typically not crazy (and far more often, a gray-area hero/villain and love interest of Batman). We get her in 70902 Catwoman Catcycle Chase with the same head and helmet, but I wish she would have been more Selina Kyle here with maybe some cat ears.

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Poison Ivy shows up 70908 The Scuttler, though that version is her villain outfit, so this one is cool with the Arkham jumpsuit. I don’t have that set yet, so I’m not sure if the face is the same, but I’m going to assume it is. The Catwoman head is, but I wish there was a touch more past the outfit in it (or fleshy hands… I would think they wouldn’t get gloves either).

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For the guys, the real standout here, and again more proof that the writers of this movie have more love and respect for Batman than Snyder ever has, is Two-Face. Not only for the nice change, but the fact that they modeled him after Billy D Williams potrayal of Harvey Dent in the two Keaton movies. Of all the crimes Batman Forever inflicted upon us, the greatest was recasting Two-Face so we never got to see the change. Bonus that Two-Face is going to be voiced by BDW in the LEGO Batman movie too.

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Riddler and Joker both appear in other sets, though obviously not sporting orange like this. I still love that head on Joker, like I mentioned in Balloon escape, but the shame here is that we also don’t get a standard outfit on Two-Face, since he’s the only of the villains we don’t get in another set. While there are likely more sets to come that hopefully get us a Two-Face, we’re probably on our own to make a movie version of the character out of older figures… and he’s going to be one of the most expensive heads to get on the aftermarket from this set. Also, fun detail is that the skull we see exposed for Two-Face is a LEGO skull pattern from the castle skeletons.

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Next up, we get Dr. Harleen Quinzel, known to most of us as Harley Quinn, a couple of GPC cops, and Barbra Gordon in a more traditional cop getup than we have gotten otherwise.

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I’m curious if the movie will go into the whole Dr. to henchmen angle for Harley, or if one of the two figures we’ve gotten is fan service. I’m fine either way, because both of them are awesome figures. Likewise, I like Barbra Gordon in what looks like a detective outfit (we know from trailer and other sets that she becomes commissioner after her father retires during the movie… unless it’s all a big misdirection).

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I absolutely love that alt face for Harley too, because it somehow gets a very Harley Quinn look but in a Harleen face. Harley is a far more interesting character in the cartoons and comics away from Joker, but you need to tell the story of how she got there, so it’s cool to see this figure. I like both of these figures, honestly, and despite the specialized nature of the characters, both are also generic enough that they could be used elsewhere.

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I’m amused by the fact that the two cops we get are one scared and the other looking like she’s about to rip off someone’s arm and beat them to death with it. An interesting mix of people working in an Asylum. The male officer shares a head with the guard at the Power Plant in the scarecrow set (one of his two heads, but more on that when I do the review), so I’m going to headcanon that they’re actually the same guy and he’s been moonlighting at another job.

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I welcome getting more GCPD officers, since we see a whole bunch of them at Barbra Gordon’s press conference (and Gotham has always had a lot of cops). It’s just funny that we’re getting more cops in these sets than I think we’ve gotten in the rest of the Super Hero sets combined.

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Aaron Cash is the standout for the rest of the figures, since Robin and Batman are the same versions we’ve gotten in other sets… especially with Batman. It’s not surprising if you’re not familiar with the characters, since he’s not all that prevalent in the comics (his big came to fame, and the source of the hook, is from an an encounter with Killer Croc). He’s probably more recognizable to anyone who’s played the Arkham series of video games… and you should, they’re pretty good (well, the first two are great, the prequel is steamy garbage, and the most recent one was okay).

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I am sort of curious about the blaster that Robin is holding, I’m sure it’ll play into something in the movie, but anything around Arkham is somewhat of a mystery right now. Really, the only knock I’d make is that Aaron’s outfit looks more like a patient/inmate, and not like one of the guards. I wish there was a little something more to differentiate it other than the color. Also, I wish the face was only one sided, because it’d work very well for a Ben Sisko minifigure, giving me a reason to build up a LEGO DS9…

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There are some non-asylum bits to this, including a cop car that looks oddly familiar…

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New headcanon… Springfield keeps prisoners at Arkham. It feels oddly dated and stylized to an 80s look, while most everything else we’ve seen has been a bit more modern. Unless there’s a joke how the police department hasn’t had to update for years because of Batman’s intervention, it’s just a weird choice.

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I really don’t care for this car, mostly because of the interior. You could make something interesting out of it, but they did nothing to the inside other than put a steering wheel there. No seats, no grate between the front and the back… nothing. Everything they focused on was on the exterior.

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It’s also hard to get if this is supposed to be an Asylum (like, you know, the name), or just a proper prison. We get a table and a set of weights for use in an exercise yard, which have a very prison feel to them. It feels like they’re here just to add on bullet points, though, so I’m not sure what’s up with them. I like the weight bench, it’s very simple, but the table suffers by using all tiles so minifigs don’t stay on the seats.

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What’s interesting is that this version of Arkham seems to be entirely thought up by LEGO. In the comics, it’s far more of an old-style Victorian castle, frequently portrayed as isolated (initially, it wasn’t even in Gotham, but somewhere out in the country upstate). It typically has more of a castle look, but this is very early-1900s brownstone, and I kind of dig it.

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If you count this guy out front, there are technically 13 minifigures in the set, but he’s credited as parts. I’m very curious about the story of the guy holding a snake out front. Is it a reference to Caduceus? If so, he’s missing a stick and a snake. Also, it’s apparently snowing this time of year at Arkham.

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Really, though, the build is all about what comes with the back. While the front makes for a very striking display piece, there is a lot of play value tucked into it. One annoying comment, though, is the connectors that attach the wings to the main section. They don’t snap into place… it used a + shaped technic pin, and just sit inside an axle brick. So it’s basically there to keep them from sliding part, but nothing connects it.

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Inside at the base, we get an X-Ray booth that all of the people presumably get to step through. This is one of those circumstances where stickers work well, and there’s a little sled section that slides back and forth inside it to move a minifigure through. That being said… what is that red thing the guy in the picture has?

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Above that, we get a little security section. The computer marks a lockdown, there is a juice box for some reason, a security cabinet, and even some tiles that are printed with a VCR tape pattern. I like the idea that they’re still fully analog at Arkham, because of course they are. I guess that keeps them safe from the latest digital villains… but are any kids going to even recognize a VCR at this point? I do like how they placed cameras all throughout the back of this, watching each part of the asylum.

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The left wing includes a laundry section, Dr. Quinzen’s office (I think), and a couple of cells for Two Face and the Riddler that redefine “cruel and unusual punishment.” Seriously… this is supposed to be a hospital as much as a prison, and they’re given a featureless box with a couple of posters. No place to sit other than the floor, and not even enough room to lay down. Typically a prison cell is supposed to be at least 70 square feet… I think these are somewhere around the neighborhood of “four.” Just saying, if you were a defense lawyer in Gotham, you’d win a lot of cases just on the conditions here.

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There seems to be a missed opportunity here to have a picture of the Joker posted. Otherwise, it’s simple and kind of nice. The chair doesn’t really attach to anything, but I like the more modern computer look.

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Below the office, we get a little laundry area that’s a weird mixture of lazy (that tile) and excellent (the washing machines). I like the use of stickers on the detergent box, but it would have been even nicer to see a place to put it other than “on the floor. In my display, Joker is confined to cleaning up in this area, because it seems like the kind of job he’d get. You don’t want him in the tool shop is what I’m saying…

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The right wing looks to be the ring for female characters, which begs the question… where are you going to put the joker (or the other fifty villains we’ve gotten in minifigure form). I also really like how they accented up the roof using telescope parts, and built those parts up without making it look overly spiky (like, you know, the movies tend to do). Both sides feature a rail section for guards and some spotlights, which makes me think this is doubling for cell blocks as well as pointing to a yard for them to assemble (more on that when I get to the tower, but we saw parts of it in the benches above).

I wonder why Catwoman isn’t allowed to have stationary. Is there a reason why they wouldn’t want to give her something like that? It also is a nice touch that there are some vines growing outside of Ivy’s cell, but nothing really goes inside. What feels a bit off is that Catwoman’s poster has a Joker mouth drawn over Batman. Given the weird relationship that typically exists between Catwoman and Batman, she’d have something more cat focused. It seems more like Joker should be in here, and Catwoman elsewhere… but there aren’t enough cells for it to work. Poison Ivy, however, gets a great plant poster, so there is that.

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Above we get a little alcove for prisoners to talk to visitors. I have some questions, though, about the setup. First… is it safe to leave the top open like that. Second… where do they sit? Why are they torturing the visitors like they’re torturing the patients? Third… how do they get up there?

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The real star of this section, though, is the cafeteria section, which looks to be nicer than the cafe where I work (and likely priced better). There’s a whole lot to like here, but you need to be careful with how the food sits on the counter. Most of it has nothing to stop it from sliding out, and food fights between inmates are likely. Still, a lot of nice little details, like the stack of plates or just using things like cheese wedges as actual cheese.

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The last element, outside of the main building, is a guard tower that is intended to sit behind. The back has more “yard” features, like a basketball hoop and backboard… no ball though, you can’t trust villains with a ball. We get a few signs that show “Lock Down” and where we are… I have to assume Lock down is a fairly prepetual state in this place. There are only three ways out of Arkham: Death, Escape because of criminally poor security and constant super villain attacks, and your inevitable court release because of gross law enforcement misconduct and unlawful arrest by vigilante. I have to assume Aaron isn’t in charge of security, because why does the Arkham security force need three boxes of TNT placed just above where villains hang out. You’re honestly just asking for trouble doing that.

This is a curious set, but one that I really liked. It’s designed for display and for play, and it does a good on both fronts. Turn it around, and you get the playset features, but most of the time it just made me wish I had three or more of this set to try and build it out into a proper modular hospital and prison. There’s a lot to love in this set, and it certainly looks striking and unique. It stands on it’s own and makes you want to build it into something better… more than that, it’s different enough from the previous versions that it doesn’t feel rehashed like the past one. I couldn’t wait to finish snapping pictures so I could set it up on my shelf with the other movie stuff. Mix all of that together, and I’m going to call this a five out of five.

What I Liked

  • Twelve minifigures, all but two unique to the set, a price drop from the previous version, and a distinct upgrade in aesthetics? It’s currently raining outside, but I don’t see any pigs
  • Set looks fantastic sitting on a shelf, and I dare you to build this and 70900 and not put Joker and his Baloons on top of one of the roof
  • Lots of little touches tucked into the sets, like the posters, the X-Ray, the lunch counter, and other bits make it a fun set to build

What I Didn’t Like

  • Not enough cells for all the villains they give us in the set
  • Wings do not connect to the main section, they just have pins to keep them from sliding front to back
  • Cop car looks Simpsons like, and seems like they forgot to build the inside at all

Verdict: 5 out of 5. You can buy 70912 Arkham Asylum right now on Lego Shop@Home!

70912 Box Art

 

Final Score: 5 out of 5 stars.