While it hasn’t always been handled smoothly, I appreciate DC and Marvel’s attempts to make their respective comic book universes more diverse. I always find the best way to do that is to not replace a beloved character with a minority as it festers resentment from a certain comic fan demographic. One of the best recent examples of successfully introducing a minority into an established universe was Duke Thomas. Initially part of the We Are Robin book, Duke has become a well received new addition to the Bat Family.
I was ecstatic when Mattel revealed a We Are Robin Duke Thomas figure as part of the resurgent DC Multiverse Build-A-Figure Rookie wave. Mattel was still working out some old kinks when Duke got made, but this was a figure I definitely wanted on my Batman family display. Let’s see how he fared.
Packaging: The Multiverse packaging is my least favorite mass market presentation. There’s too much text all over with the front looking especially unattractive and a lack of clarity regarding the character’s name. That’s important for a relatively newer character like Duke.
The side package bio sums Duke up pretty well for one sentence, but it seems like such a waste to not use the wider, more visible back package. This felt like an attempt to do something different and it just didn’t work.
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Likeness: We Are Robin featured some great takes on the traditional Robin outfit. Duke was set up more or less as the main character so it makes sense that he had the coolest costume. That makes for a very fun figure as well. Mattel didn’t reuse anything giving Duke a completely unique sculpt.
The leather jacket has some nice elements from the paneled chest, the wrinkles along the sleeves and rolled up cuffs. The pants aren’t boring either with sculpted lines and kneepads. Without feeling like pandering, Duke’s sneakers reflect what a black teen would most likely wear when coming up with their own gear. Duke’s helmet is terrific. The sculpt work is great as it has the required depth to convey that head in a helmet visual. That’s surprisingly something that isn’t always account for with helmets on figures.
Scale: By the time Duke is wearing this outfit, he’s more along the lines of an older high school/college student age. He’s not as young as Damien Wayne, but he shouldn’t be looking eye to eye with Batman yet either. The figure is scaled exactly how I wish Mattel handled Tim Drake’s Robin figure.
Paint: Duke largely stuck to muted primary colors with a darker red jacket, blue jeans and the bright yellow R for Robin. One of the aspects that’s most impressed me with Mattel’s latest foray into the 6-inch market is the quality paint work.
There’s a lot of minor detail work from the jacket buttons, the line work on the helmet and the belt buckle, but it’s all done flawlessly. You’ll have to look very close to see a stray line on the sneakers, which is very impressive. Even the yellow R is strong and doesn’t look like it needs a few more applications to really stand out.
Articulation: Here’s the one area where Mattel is going to need to keep stepping up to truly match up with Hasbro’s Marvel Legends. Duke has decent, moderately functional articulation, but he’s not going to accomplish the most dynamic of poses. The biggest problem is the elbows, which are single-jointed and further calls attention to the lack of a bicep cut. It really restricts the ability to make a Gotham vigilante really take it to Gotham’s crooks.
The knees are also single jointed and they prove just as frustrating. The Multiverse figures are so close to being really good to great figures that it’s a bit irritating the articulation is still stuck in the early 2000s.
Duke Thomas has:
- ball-jointed shoulders
- wrist hinge
Accessories: In somewhat of a rarity for the Multiverse line, Duke has a good array of accessories in addition to the Collect and Connect piece.
We get an alternate unmasked Duke Thomas portrait. I was impressed with whoever designed the front package as the unmasked sculpt matches up well with the package comic art. I’m glad Mattel took advantage of the separate portrait as the unmasked head has a more laid back and reserved expression.
Additionally, Duke has a pair of nunchakus and what I assume is a smoke bomb. These weren’t half done either and feature appropriate paintwork so Duke’s nunchakus aren’t all brown or silver. That’s impressive.
Finally, he comes with the left leg of the CAC Rookie. I’m at that dangerous point now where I’ve got too many pieces to ignore it and may as well just finish building him.
Worth it? I found Duke on sale for $17. Given the unique sculpting, accessories and BAF piece, this is a rare Multiverse figure that favors comparably with the Marvel Legends value.
Rating: 8 out of 10
So much is great with this figure, but the articulation limitations continue to hold this line down. Duke is worth getting though and is a great addition for the Bat family.
Where to get it? I’ve seen Duke Thomas at both Toys R Us and Wal-Mart. They’re your best retail options although you can always get him separately from Amazon or get the full BAF Rookie case from Entertainment Earth.