Sometimes, I feel sorry for Aquaman. He’s one of the deepest and most well-developed DC characters, with a big history, unique powers, and a established legacy. He owns a weapon that can hurt Superman (the Trident of Neptune is magic, and the Man of Steel is a sucker for card tricks), and is actually pretty toe-to-toe with our S-wearing friend in a lot of ways. He has armies at his command, and let’s be honest, when you can go anywhere in the oceans on a whim, you can probably set up some memorable first dates.
On the other hand, the guy speaks goldfish. Okay, he “communicates telepathically” with marine animals, but unless his enemies are nice enough to fight him in a situation that is clearly to his benefit (instead of, you know, on land), his “greatest” power is also the one that’s most frequently worthless. The majority of stuff in the DC universe happens in places that are not known for their water.
This set was a curious addition to this year’s sets, since the rest seem to be going with a general “city battle” theme. Not many undersea ancient ruins around Metropolis, at least not in the New 52. At least I don’t think there are, I’m honestly not that up on my N52 Aquaman lore.
This $40 set is bundled with the obligatory Batman, but has the nice addition of some undersea Robin, Aquaman (because making an underwater set and not putting in Aquaman is mean even by my standards), and a nice villain in Black Manta, the nemesis for Aquaman. At 387 parts, it hovers right around the expected range for the price point, and the only non-unique figure in the lineup is Aquaman (though Batman is only like 5% new, or however much a head adds up to). Oh, and a laser shark. Let me go on the record and say that all sets should have a laser shark.
I’m not even sure why I was drawn to this set, but when we were figuring out who was going to review what, this was the first DC set that I grabbed. It was probably the laser shark, but could have also been some of the interesting parts that were in here, or the general Atlantis vibe the set had going on. That was a fairly underrated theme that introduced a lot of nice parts for builders.
There are four minifigs in the set, as well as the aforementioned laser shark, a SyFy movie that we desperately need, and then the inevitable spin-off Lasersharknado. I think that we can all agree, that is the movie we both deserve and need in this world.
Aquaman is the unchanged from his last set, Arctic Batman vs. Mr. Freeze, which is sadly out-of-print and already hitting that sad markup range. That was actually a pretty cool little set, with a bat… sled, but probably the best launcher system for missiles LEGO has ever made. Plus, Arctic Batman was cool, before it was all Batman, all the time. If you missed getting Aquaman in that set, you now have another chance.
The angry face suits him, but I always liked my Aquaman with more of a 90s, has a beard and only one hand kind of vibe. I’d love to see some variations of him show up like that eventually, but who knows where he’s going with the N52 Convergence thing that’s wrapping up.
Aqua-Batman is apparently just Batman with a different face. He didn’t even get a cowl or suit change for this, which feels so lazy. I mean, if you’re going to foist Batman into everything, and put him under water with Aquaman, at least give him some more scuba features. Space Batman at least was very unique, and Arctic Batman was a real highlight in that set.
While the torso and the like is unchanged, half of his face is created with a visor and rebreather (at least I assume it’s a rebreather… Batman is always going to pick the more expensive diving option, and won’t let bubbles give him away). He does have the new soft cape as well, so that’s a plus, even though it’s basically only showing up with Batman thus far.
The alternate face is a bit different on this one, since it’s printed over a black head, instead of black printed on a fleshy head. The printing on mine was actually quite good, which was nice to see, because the printed heads on black-plastic bases is hit and miss, at best. Apparently even in a wetsuit, Batman wears his headband.
Robin gets a much better treatment as a custom underwater figure. He’s a lot more welcome here, in part because he’s far more rare than Batman in the sets, but also because Robin is a fairly important character in the animated universe. Much more important than Batman in the Teen Titans Go ‘verse, as he’s a regular on the team.
There’s a lot to like on this set, with the painted diving mask that could easily be used in other applications (especially space or Star Wars figures… I’m thinking a cool Bounty Hunter). The alt-face is a generic mask and surprised face, so you could use it elsewhere as well. The torso has the Robin logo, but if you wanted to use it elsewhere, it’s easy enough to cover that part of the torso up with any of the various armors or shoulder parts we’ve gotten in recent years. We also get some hair for Robin to cover up the mask if you so choose.
Even though for heroes it’s still all Batman, I do like that these sets are featuring different villains. Maybe it’s just me, but I find Batman’s villains to be a bit boring compared to a lot of others out there. The best villains in his playbook are the most complex: Joker is awesome because he’s so random, Harley Quinn is great because she’s got a real tragic and less villainous side, and Catwoman is as a hero just as often as she’s a villain. But so many others are so one-note as to be known more for their one trait (say, like the Riddler) than anything else.
Instead, the villains this wave focus on some other heroes, or in cases like Darkseid, Braniac, or Sinestro… big baddies that have huge impact across the DC universe. Black Manta is an arch-nemesis for Aquaman who pretty much can be described as “straight-up hating Aquaman.” He’s an unrepentant bad guy that is established in the new 52 as wanting to murder the heck out of anything Aquaman even glanced at. They’ve saddled him with some daddy revenge backstory, unfortunately, but across his history it was less background, more murderousness. He had multiple origins, was frequently used as a racist stereotype, and given pretty much no motivation for anything he did other than kill kill kill kill fishsticks kill kill kill.
This is an interesting solution to build a figure with an odd-shaped head, with the fold-over top and tubes. It’s pretty sturdy, but there’s a danger that the folding will break the tubes if you take him apart too many times. The big shame with the character is not incorporating a true minifig head into the mix, as Black Manta is actually a person of color, something that the DC line desperately needs.
I suppose the lasershark isn’t technically a minifig, but he’s so awesome I’m going to include him with the minifigs, because laser and shark. Okay, they might be missiles, it’s kind of hard to say, but lasers sound cooler, and that was basically the only part of Austin Powers that hasn’t because just frickin’ awful when you go watch it again.
The shark has a black body, which would be awesome if the head also matched it, but unfortunately, it’s just dark gray, lowering the versatility of the animal. The pattern on the head is just a sticker, so if you take the lasers and sticker off, you have a fine little shark.
I’m pretty well done beating the dead-horse about Batman, so we get a bat-sub in this set. At this point, we’ve gotten the Batmobile, the Batwing, the Batcopter, the Batboat, the Batmech, the Batdragster, and probably even the Batfoodtruck (some bat-tacos with some bat-hotsauce would probably hit the spot right about now). Always kind of shocking the sort of money that Bruce Wayne puts into developing all of these highly specialized vehicles, and the fact that the army of manufacturing arms apparently never puts it together that they’re building these things for him.
The sub is a fairly simple and somewhat boring design. The fins move a bit to help you aim the flick fires, it has the bat logo, and apparently Robin is just on his own to get to and from the surface. It has a couple of nice slope parts, but unless you build with only black or sometimes very dark gray, you likely have enough of them by now.
It’s also a bit fragile with those long curved slopes on either end. They’re basically held in place by those grills, so when you pick it up, they tend to bend in if you grip the sub too tightly. Really, the best use of this thing is to take the parts and use it in combination with another undersized bat vehicle to make something better.
Black Manta’s sub, on the other hand, has a lot more going on. It does use the large UFO curved bricks that sort of diminish the quality of the build, but they do fit the shape so it’s easier to overlook. This really isn’t that much more complex of a build than the Batsub, but the unique look and feel makes it easier to imagine this thing as a sub or even a spaceship.
You also get a few more interesting parts with this thing, like curved tiles/slopes, some grill bricks, new flick-fire launchers, and the silver tubes. I’m not saying you’re going to buy this set for the parts in this particular sub, but it certainly has some better value than the Batsub does. However, quality in printing did rear its ugly head in my set, with the short curved slope/tile things in flat silver having some very apparent irregularities to the color.
The canopy is a relatively new part, having originated in Ultra-Agents, Artic, and City Police last year in trans-blue, and in bionacle this year in trans-black. Trans-orange is unique to this set (and feel free to sub in whatever neon or light or dark or sideways modifier that I missed for the color). I really like the design of this canopy, and this is the first set I picked up that had one of these.
This build is also quite a bit more sturdy, with the only real weak spot being the top of the back tail fin, which can pop off if you hit either side of that fender brick. They have some added tension from the tubes, but it’s not nearly as noticeable a problem as the slopes on the other one. You can also see the pattern irregularity I mentioned above here. That isn’t a vertical shadow on that slope to the right, it’s a blemish in the plastic color. Both of the slopes in this color had a similar issue.
This sub also features some stickers on the interior, which look fairly nice. They’re not really trans-red, like it looks here… that’s just the effect of the orange canopy on the interior.
The last piece of the set is a little set of temple ruins, which apparently favors a sort of Corinthian column from the early classical period. I honestly don’t know if that’s true, but the only lasting thing from the art history class I took in college, which started at 7:30 in the morning (and you can’t learn anything about art out of one bloodshot eye), was terms like Ionic, Tuscan, Doric, and Corinthian columns. Ionic has the little swirl things, so I know those don’t apply here, and Tuscan columns would need to have cylindrical disks (as where Doric is pretty much just the column part). That class was apparently money well spent</sarcasm>.
The feature of this section is it’s a place for you to bring Robin to “hang” him from the little peg and put Aquaman’s trident there as bait. There’s a little pin for you to release a hinge and tip the whole thing over, but there are a variety of reasons why this is just a terrible idea for a villain or trap.
First, the absolute last thing you want Aquaman to have in his possession when you are fighting him is that trident. Second… people generally float under water, so the idea of hanging Robin from a peg is beyond problematic. Even if those chains are heavy, they’re going to be less buoyant than he is, so he’d likely just float upright. Third, I don’t know, maybe invest in a cage. Someone is probably trying to catch lobster nearby, and you can re-purpose one of those things.
Parts-wise, if you need white round grill bricks, this is the set to get them.
I know I said that the Green Lantern vs. Sinestro set was probably the weakest of the DC lineup, but that was before I’d really spent some time going over this set. There is value here, with a decent number of parts and some good elements mixed in, but the fact that the only truly unique figures are Robin and Black Manta (only Batman’s head is unique and Aquaman is a repeat) and nothing about the set is really notable, this thing can’t rise above being average, at best, and ranking in at a 3 stars out of 5.
What I liked
- LASER SHARK!
- Black Manta is a good minifig, and Aqua-Robin has quite a bit of utility if you cover up that little R
- Decent part value and a relatively good number of parts for a $40 set in the Super Heroes line (though not spectacular on either front)
What I didn’t like
- Batsub is a lazy and fairly uninspired build
- Black Manta would have been greatly improved with a real minifig head (of a person of color) under the helmet, instead of the breakable and unique setup we got
- Laser Shark, while awesome, would have been cooler with a matching head
- Batman’s only “aqua” feature is a special face print… if you’re going to be in every set, at least end up unique like Space Batman
Verdict: 3 out of 5. Probably worth it for the Super Heroes collector when it’s on sale, but unless you missed Aquaman or really want Black Manta for your Legion of Doom, not as pressing. You can buy 76027 Black Manta Deep Sea Strike right now on Amazon.com.