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Aqualad

Young Justice
by yo go re

DC has a long, proud history of farming its comic characters out to other media, allowing the creators there to adapt and expand the universe, and then adopting those new ideas back into the comics. Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, Harley Quinn, the freaking Batcave... all of them appeared elsewhere first, but eventualy became important part of the comics. The newest member of that club is the current Aqualad.

Kaldur'ahm grew up in the undersea kingdom of Atlantis. After completing his education and military training, Kaldur transferred to the prestigious Conservatory of Sorcery. When Ocean-Master attacked, Kaldur saved Aquaman's life and was invited to become his protege Aqualad!

Even with being one of many Canon Immigrants, Aqualad still gets to be in fairly rare company. He, like Renee Montoya from Batman: the Animated Series, was indisputably created by the cartoon team, and was only intended to exist in the animation; but again, just like Renee Montoya, the comic guys caught wind of this new character, liked the dynamic (s)he brought to the table, and picked (s)him up right away; but since it takes a lot longer to produce a cartoon than it does to produce a comic (even one tied into a mega-crossover story), Aqualad showed up in print before the show debuted.

The figure uses the DCU Classics "Large Teen" body - the one originally intended to be the "Thin Villain" body (which means he shares his torso with Sinestro and Superboy). It really does work a lot better as a teenager than as a full-grown adult, that's for sure. He looks muscular, but still undeveloped - this is clearly someone who still has growing to do. But just because his torso is shared, it doesn't mean he has no new parts. Everything below the knees is an original mold, due to the fins on his calf muscles and the fact that he's barefoot. We were going to say he was the first DCUC-style figure to not wear any shoes, but that's inaccurate: that already happened in Series 1.

Apparently the Young Justice designers based Aqualad's look on The Lord of the Rings' elves, but to me he looks more alien. He definitely has an inhuman aspect, befitting a kid who's half-Atlantean (on his mom's side). The version in the comics has short black dreadlocks, while the animated Aqualad has close-cropped blonde hair.

The figure's paint is more complex than it might seem at a glance. Yes, he's just wearing red and navy blue, but his golden belt buckle is clean and the black stripes on his shirt are crisp. He has gills painted on the sides of his neck, and the tattoos that run down his arms are a bright enough blue to contrast with his tan skin. Yes, they're tattoos. Tattoos of eels. And they're normally black, but they glow bright blue when he enters the Avatar State uses his abilities. In addition to all that, there are darker blue apps on his backpack, which may indicate lights, or could just be intended to represent water stored inside.

See, in addition to the "Aquaman combo platter" powerset (strength, speed, improved vision, all that), Kal is also a waterbender is also shape and command water into solid forms - but while he can shape it, he can't create it, so he either needs a standing source, or he needs to carry a supply with him at all times. The two little handles pull out of his backpack, becoming the base for whatever weapon he decides to make. The set includes five such weapons: an axe, a mace, two swords and a mallet. They're all cast from translucent blue plastic, and have handles built in. In that case, why bother putting removable ones in his backpack in the first place?

Like all the (good) Young Justice figures, Aqualad comes with a large display base. His is some non-descript warehouse, factory or plant, measuring 8" by 4" by 3⅝", with a cistern of some sort in the corner. It's a large tank, with yellow and black caution stripes in a band around the middle, and it has a large valve on the side. A pipe has been broken open, and a jet of water is shooting out.

The water is the same translucent blue as the weapons, and has a wire running through it so you can pose it however you like. There's even a hole in the tip where Aqualad's backpack-handle can plug in, making it look as if he's drawing out the water himself. Unfortunately, due to either a bone-headed oversight or just plain ol' bad toy design, the water spout cannot be removed from the base! Pop the tank off the floor, try to pry the thing in half... the water is going nowhere. That's really frustrating, and we expect better - yes, even from Mattel, the Stephen of the toy industry Baldwins.

Aqualad is a really cool character in Young Justice. Though he could have easily been overshadowed by the other characters on the show, he's a proven badass and has been chosen to lead the team - and yet, he never comes across like he's being forced on the audience. That's hard to accomplish! The character seems to have disappeared from the comics post-reboot, cementing the idea that he's only "real" to the cartoon continuity, which means this figure is likely the last time he'll ever be made into a toy. If you like Kaldur'ahm, go for it - just be ready to deal with the stupid water spout.

-- 04/25/12


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