Wednesday, 25 January 2012

A Different World

As someone brought up in an era of basic bricks and plates with few specialised pieces to call upon, it's perhaps not surprising that the joys of Bionicle and more recently HERO Factory have eluded me. Hell, I'm even suspicious of Technic, although I am slowly starting to come around to that in my old age.... I genuinely struggle to see the attraction of LEGO pieces which don't have studs and which are therefore barely compatible with my huge existing LEGO collection. I fully understand that many others love Bionicle and the rest, and good luck to them, but it just doesn't appeal to me, in the same way I guess that I've never 'got' Meccano while millions of other people swear by it.

Given all of the above, therefore, something extremely unexpected happened last weekend. For the first time ever, I was tempted into buying one of these "non-LEGO" LEGO sets on a visit to a LEGO brand store. The 'something' that happened was LEGO producing a series of HERO Factory-style Super Heroes figures. Not a stud in sight, and an awful lot of frankly alien-looking pieces evident in the publicity shots, but Batman is Batman, so I handed over my money and took my first step into a strange new world....

The box for Set 4526 Batman (above) is smart-looking albeit unusually tall and narrow. It has strange, incomprehensible things printed on it like "FRICTION JOINT FOR BIGGER BUILDING", a reminder me that I was indeed intruding on a previously uncharted corner of the LEGO universe.

The instructions (above) feature the same artwork as the front of the box; they're the shape of a DVD box but smaller. Maybe it's just my imagination, but the pages seem thinner than those of other instruction booklets and I'm wondering if with the size and shape of the booklet and the texture of the paper LEGO are trying to recreate a comic book-like feel. This suspicion becomes stronger when you open the booklet and find a comic strip featuring Batman and the Joker inside the front cover (below; click to enlarge). It's a very slim instruction booklet, although still manages to accommodate an inventory of parts and 5 pages of advertising as well as the building steps.

In addition to the instructions, the box contains two sealed poly bags of parts and a larger loose black part which will form Batman's 'spine'. You can see a selection of parts below; for those like myself unaquainted with the likes of Bionicle and HERO Factory, the parts probably won't seem like LEGO at all....

Despite consisting of a paltry 12 building steps, the build itself took longer than it should have done, probably because I found myself a little disoriented by all the unfamiliar parts. The majority of connections seemed to be of the ball and socket variety; this allows for a substantial range of movement and ensures that Batman can be posed like a bone fide action figure. Even most of his body panels attach via ball and socket joints.

Batman cuts a surprisingly imposing figure once built, and he's bigger than I thought he'd be. By way of contrast, I introduced him to fellow do-gooder Buzz Lightyear from Set 7592 Construct-a-Buzz (below) and he's slightly taller. Batman's ball and socket construction technique, and his consequent expanded range of movement, means that he can be posed in a more realistic fashion than Buzz and adopts a more natural pose.

Close up, Batman's mask and face have a slightly matte look and feel compared with your average LEGO brick, and his classic comic book square jaw is nicely captured. The Batman symbol on his torso is printed - no stickers in this set, I'm pleased to report.

Overall, I'm really not sure what to make of this set. It doesn't look like LEGO to me, and the building experience was totally alien and not particularly enjoyable if I'm honest. I also can't see much likelihood of finding a use for the pieces in the kind of MOCs that I tend to build. I do however have to confess that I quite like the final result, and I suspect that there's a fair bit of play value for a particular demographic given that Batman can be posed like a fully-fledged action figure and looks quite cool.

Batman is part of a first wave of Super Heroes action figures, along with Set 4527 The Joker and Set 4528 Green Lantern. Three more figures - Iron Man, Captain America and The Hulk are expected to join them later this year. I'm undecided as yet whether I'll look to pick up more of these or not, although if I find them at a reasonable discount it might just tip the balance...

Batman consists of 40 pieces and has a MRSP of £10.99 ($14.99 U.S.). At time of writing he's available on Amazon's UK site at 11% off MRSP and comes with free delivery - click here to buy. Folks in the U.S. can get hold of Batman here, although you guys will have to pay the full $14.99 MRSP I'm afraid.... 


  1. Richard Selby27/1/12

    Lego is the most amazing tool for creativity and engineering. But this stuff, it's just a kids toy. Mind you, looks like Bats would happily 'mate' with the Ben10 sets my son got given last year. Maybe some interesting results.

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