As an early Christmas present for my cousins, who live far away in the south, ugh, I decided to give their mum a break and buy them some Lego Batman. They’re both 7, which means they’re old enough to not eat the caped crusader, but young enough that it took them a good afternoon to assemble it. Lego have recently moved into franchised product, creating Star Wars Lego sets, Indiana Jones Lego sets, and even Lord of the Rings Lego sets (watch out, that was the sound of Heidi racing off to her local toy store).
The DC/Marvel ones were the most interesting as far as I’m concerned, though, because you’ve got to trick children into reading comics from as young an age as possible. After checking through the various different Batman sets on sale, I decided to buy them “The Dynamic Duo’s Funhouse Escape!”
The moment when you realise you’re an adult? It’s the moment when you turn over a box of Lego in the store and realise that Lego is actually really ruddy expensive.
As a kid – which I thought I still was until today’s realisation – I’d get some kind of Lego thing every year. Whether a full-blown Aztec playset or just a little motorbike, it was a guaranteed way for the family to make me bloody well shut up while they watched The Queen’s Christmas speech in the other room. What I hadn’t realised until today was that Lego is very very expensive indeed, which was perhaps why I didn’t get it as a present very often. Even the smallest sets will cost you at least a tenner nowadays, for fewer pieces and an easier build.
But hey, that’s a digression. The set has now been built and is currently lying on the floor, Batman’s head forced onto Harley Quinn’s body. So let’s review it! Because why not. Costing $39.99 (yikes!) from the Lego Store, this set is based around the Joker’s fun-house, and gives you Batman, Red Robin, Joker, Harley Quinn and The Riddler figures. You also get a Bat-Bike and a barrel filled with Joker Fish for your money, along with the set itself. Is it worth it? Hm.
First of all, it should be mentioned that while Lego may have reduced the complexity of the builds, over the years they’ve increased their bag of tricks to extend beyond trapdoors and secret compartments. This set features a giant swinging hammer, a mine cart track, a see-saw and a rope trap… as well as a trapdoor. The time it takes to build all this is around an hour (with the occasional help from stronger hands), with much of that time spent trying to force the rubber wheels of the Bat-Bike onto their axles. The guide was easy to use and no pieces were missing or hard to distinguish from each other, which was great.
Lego have an interesting grasp on Batman continuity, in that they’ve decided to use both well-known and little-known references in designing this themed series. While most people know about Riddler and Joker, the presence of Harley Quinn suggests that the Batman cartoons were a big influence on whoever designed the sets — and the inclusion of Red Robin is really interesting. It suggests not only that Lego know about Jason Todd and Tim Drake, but are actually trying to appeal to their fans by offering them as characters alongside the more expected Nightwing or ‘classic’ Robin design. I’d also direct you to look at the weapon which Riddler is holding in this set, because IT IS A CROWBAR. In a Joker’s funhouse set. With Red Robin as one of the figures included.
Kudos to whoever managed to sneak that one under the radar.
There’s a few problems with the set itself. The mine-cart doesn’t really launch properly unless you give it a firm push, while Joker’s see-saw doesn’t really seem to have any purpose whatsoever. The giant hammer is properly brilliant though, with endless joy coming from setting random characters up for a bashing, as the weapon sends them pelting through the air. There’s also a fun nod to the Riddler’s lair in Batman Forever (the best Batman film, SIT DOWN it’s the best one) with a ‘riddle me this’ machine hidden away as part of the set design. Batman’s cape makes the trapdoor a bit of a dud though, as he won’t physically fit through the gap in the floor. He’s the only figure who doesn’t fall into the trap out of the five, however, so that could just be Lego accepting that Batman has a plan for everything.
The mine-cart doesn’t have a long enough track, although the breakaway Joker doors – as long as you get the stickers in the right place – are very well conceived. The character models are brilliant, with each character with hair or a mask – everyone apart from Riddler, basically – having a second expression on the back of their head. So at any given time, you can swivel Robin’s face around to go from ‘calm’ to ‘panicked’. I think there’s probably quite a bit of replay value in the set, with the variety of traps and devices available to play around with. You do get a Bat-Bike on top of everything else, although I think this is a repeated design which you can also get in two of the other sets. So, if you do decide to get all the sets, you’re going to have quite a few motorbikes going around.
All in all, it’s a fun set, which JUST ABOUT makes up for the price. And the chance to remake ‘Death in the Family’ but with Lego is too good to pass up.