2013 promises to be another excellent year for LEGO fans, and I’m already looking forward to getting my hands on a number of the recently released and upcoming sets. Of all those sets, however, I reckon the one that I was most looking forward to was Set 10937 Batman : Arkham Asylum Breakout, particularly as I missed out on the original Arkham Asylum set in 2006.
I’m therefore delighted to report that I’ve already got my hands on a copy of the new version, and I’m pleased to bring you a review of it right here on Brickset. So buckle up for the ride, and don't forget to click on the images if you want to look at bigger versions...
First things first : the box is BIG - the recent welcome tendency to shrink down the boxes appears to have been at least temporarily forgotten so far as this set is concerned. It’s the same size as the massive box for Set 7498 Police Station, and it has the same surface area as Set 10228 Town Hall, although it’s not got the depth of the latter.
The front of the box (above) features the same dark blue DC Universe Super Heroes branding as the first wave of DC Universe sets. Most of the space is taken up with a huge picture of the front of the Asylum itself set against a misty, bleak backdrop and festooned with a multitude of minifigures in a variety of action poses. The back of the box (below) focuses on the Asylum’s interior and also on some of the many play features to be found within the set, of which more later.
Big box or not, on cutting the seals there’s less empty space inside than I had expected; most of the volume is taken up by ABS, in contrast with times gone by when Billund air has often occupied the majority of the available space. In addition to all the sealed bags full of parts there’s a set of pristine instruction booklets and a perfectly flat sticker sheet inside a cardboard-backed bag. I know that LEGO have been packaging instructions and sticker stickers for the larger sets like this for a while now, but having lived through many years of crumpled instruction booklets and ruined sticker sheets, finding them in such good condition these days continues to bring joy to my heart and I suspect it’ll never get old.
There are three instruction booklets (above). They’re pretty hefty - not far off A4 size and ranging from 72 to 84 pages in length. They have almost identical covers, and apart from the actual building instructions themselves and a 4-page inventory of parts in the third booklet there’s almost no additional content at all.
Bundled with the instruction booklets is a short comic book (below) which starts out by chronicling the breakout from Arkham Asylum and the subsequent battle between Batman and Robin and their fiendish foes. About halfway through, the comic switches tack to focus on a battle between Aquaman (ably assisted by Batman) and Mr. Freeze. This is presumably included to provide some back-story to 2013 Super Heroes Set 76000 Arctic Batman vs. Mr. Freeze : Aquaman on Ice. The comic then wraps up with another scene, this time loosely based on the recent “Dark Knight Rises” movie, where Batman and Commissioner Gordon battle Bane in Gotham City.; this story tees up Set 76001 The Bat vs. Bane : Tumbler Chase.
You can see a picture of the sticker sheet below. I’m not a fan of stickers – they’re fiddly to apply neatly and they perish with age – and I would consequently much prefer that we were provided with printed parts instead. That having been said, I’d prefer stickers to nothing at all as they provide a welcome finishing touch - I’ve never understood why some folks don’t apply them as the model doesn’t seem complete in their absence, but each to his or her own. In this instance, at least most of the stickers are small.
The box contains a total of twelve bags containing parts (or bags of smaller parts), and all but one of the bags is numbered between 1 and 9 (the other bag is made out of a softer material and isn’t numbered at all). I’ll refrain from revisiting the debate about whether splitting the build into multiple sub-assemblies and numbering the bags to match is good or bad; suffice to say that on balance it feels a little like dumbing down to me, almost like cheating, but I generally don’t feel strongly enough about it to deliberately make life more difficult by emptying all the bags into a huge bucket and ignoring the numbering….
There are two bags labelled with a ‘1’ and these contain the parts for two of the set’s eight minifigures – The Joker and a guard – plus the Arkham Asylum ‘ambulance’. There’s also a brick separator, as is the current fashion for larger sets; at the rate I’m going, I predict that I’ll drown under the weight of brick separators some time during 2015….
I don’t believe that The Joker (below) has previously appeared in this orange ‘inmate’ outfit, either in the current wave of Super Heroes sets nor in the original 2006-2008 Batman sets. His torso is probably unique to this set, but his reversible head and hairpiece look very much like those found in Set 6857 The Dynamic Duo Funhouse Escape and Set 6863 Batwing Battle over Gotham City, and his legs are just standard, generic non-printed orange ones.
The guard is pretty generic - his torso, which isn’t back-printed, has previously appeared elsewhere, as I believe has his (non-reversible) head, and of course his plain blue legs and hat. He certainly looks the part, but there’s nothing out of the ordinary about him.
The ambulance is excellent, with a scale and design reminiscent of the fire engine in Set 10197 Fire Brigade and the snowplough in the recent Winter Village Cottage set. SNOT techniques are utilised to allow the sides of the vehicle to be covered by large 6 x 6 tiles, and really my only criticism of the vehicle is that large stickers are used to create the distinctive Arkham Asylum branding on the sides.
The Joker comes with his very own restraint, somewhat similar in concept to the kind of device you might have seen Steve Buscemi's character strapped to in Con Air, or even Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs....
The vehicle is designed to accommodate the restraint complete with occupant, and you can see the Arkham guard nervously unloading the dangerous and decidedly malevolent-looking inmate below….
The bag labelled with a ‘2’ contains the parts for the Batman minifigure and Arkham Asylum’s imposing front gate.
I don’t recall having seen Batman’s wings in black before, but his torso and reversible head look to be identical to those appearing in the version of Batman which appears in a number of 2012 Super Heroes sets including Set 6863 Batwing Battle over Gotham City and Set 30160 Batman Jetski so I suspect that apart from his wings he’s not exclusive to this set.
The gate is just perfect - a doom-laden vision from a spooky Gothic horror flick, dripping with spiky faux ironwork and guarded by a pair of faceless, winged angels of darkness; the CCTV camera perched on top of it just adds a further, more modern, sinister touch.
There are two bags marked with a ‘3’ and one marked with a ‘4’. With the opening of these bags we can finally embark upon the construction of the Asylum itself, and the parts required to build The Penguin and Robin minifigures can also be found in these bags.
This is the first appearance of The Penguin (below) in LEGO form since 2008. I suspect that his torso, complete with jacket, waistcoat and a natty lilac bow tie, and his (non-reversible) head, are unique to this set. He isn’t accompanied by his uber-violent penguin minions in this set, which is a shame, although he does have his trademark umbrella, plus for some reason a pearlescent silver fish….
Apart from his black cowl, Robin looks exactly the same to me as the version which appeared in a couple of the 2012 Super Heroes sets including the Batcave; certainly his torso and reversible head look identical.
The centre section of the Asylum (below), which includes the front door, is the first to be built. Dark red highlights, which appeared during construction of the front gate, are again evident here. The upper windows look excellent, utilising SNOT techniques so that trans black 1 x 2 panels can be laid down vertically. I’ve not seen this technique used to construct windows in an official set before, and you can rest assured that I will borrow it for my own MOCs given half a chance ! The high level of decorative attention to detail seen on the front gate thankfully continues on to the exterior of this section, and there are also some neat little details in the interior, with the medical bench in the upper room a particular highlight for me.
Bags ‘5’, ’6’ and ‘7’ contain the parts required to build the tall West Wing of the Asylum, plus the Scarecrow and Poison Ivy minifigures.
For me, The Scarecrow is perhaps one of the creepiest of all Batman’s foes, and he makes a welcome appearance in this set, having not previously been part of any of the 2012 Super Heroes sets. He’s quite different to the 2006 version, with a re-designed, back-printed torso and head. He also has (unprinted) dark brown legs, in contrast to the 2006 version. It’s somewhat ironic that the Scarecrow, a.k.a. Dr. Jonathan Crane, is an inmate of Arkham Asylum, as he’s a psychologist by training. Perhaps a former Asylum employee…?
Poison Ivy is I think identical to the version which comes with Set 6860 The Batcave, although that’s no bad thing. Her back-printed torso is intricately detailed, and the vegetation pattern is continued down onto her printed legs. Give me her mischievous grin any day, as the other expression on her reversible head is too scary ! She’s topped off with a shock of bright red hair, and overall she seriously looks the part I reckon.
An asylum this may be, but the West Wing is basically a cell block, on the ground floor at least. The windows have been bricked up at ground level, and inside are two cells with neat sliding doors. On the cell doors are mugshots of the Scarecrow and Poison Ivy, stickers which you apply during construction. The middle floor features a couple of windows; one of the windows is covered with bars, between which vegetation is growing, while the other window features a cool ‘broken glass’ effect and has a rope hanging from it, down which The Scarecrow makes his escape. The interior of the middle floor features a semi-circular containment facility for Poison Ivy; I wouldn’t count on it holding her for long, though…. The upper floor features a clever circular stained glass window behind which is something of a curiosity – a holding cell for Mr. Freeze. I say a curiosity as Mr. Freeze doesn’t actually appear in this set, but at least you have somewhere to put him if you decide to buy Set 76000 Arctic Batman vs. Mr. Freeze : Aquaman on Ice…. Something else worth mentioning is the superb level of detailing on the roof, particularly the excellent winged gargoyle which effectively utilises an upside-down LEGO frog to approximate a beastly head - fantastic !
The bags labelled ‘8’ and ‘9’ contain the pieces needed to wrap up the Asylum build, and also the parts which make up the final minifigure, that of Harley Quinn.
Coming hot on the heels of psychologist Dr. Jonathan Crane, a.k.a. The Scarecrow, Dr. Harleen Francis Quinzel, a.k.a. Harley Quinn, further suggests that one of the original comic writers had a bit of a beef with the mental health profession as she’s the psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum who’s in cahoots with The Joker. This is the first time ever that Harley Quinn has appeared as a LEGO minifigure in a white coat, having previously appeared in a full-on harlequin costume in 2012’s Funhouse Escape set, and also in 2008’s Harley Quinn's Hammer Truck set. You can see her characteristic black and red outfit peeking out from the top of her outfit, however.
The East Wing of the Asylum is relatively modest compared with the other sections, with which it shares shares many external features such as bricked-up ground floor windows, a cool SNOT window on the upper floor and a gargoyle on the corner of the roof. The interior rooms in the section are small but nevertheless perfectly formed; on the ground floor is a rotating vanity desk where Harleen Quinzel transforms into Harley Quinn, while upstairs is Dr. Quinzel’s desk and chair, tastefully constructed in red brown, tan and dark green.
You can see the completed Arkham Asylum building below. Honestly, I think it looks absolutely superb. I love the Gothic architectural style, including the wonderful spires and gargoyles, and overall the level of detail is excellent. This extends to the interior, which is nicely furnished, although admittedly there’s something of a dearth of interior space to fill. I particularly love the Medical room, the holding cells and Harley Quinn’s rotating vanity desk tucked away in the corner, although frankly the whole interior looks good.
Another cool feature of the building is that it can to some extent be reconfigured, thanks to the use of Technic bricks and pins to link the sections. The instruction booklet suggests the alternative configuration below, which is in some ways quite pleasing as it gives the building a largely symmetrical frontage. As well as making the building amenable to reconfiguration, this ‘modular’ style also opens up the possibility of buying and building a second set and joining the two sets back to back if you’re so inclined....
In summary, as you may have guessed I love this set to bits – a spectacular start to 2013 as far as I’m concerned, and an early contender for set of the year. I absolutely flew through the build - I’m not one for building fast, tending to slowly creep along so I can savour every moment, but I was enjoying putting the set together so much that I didn’t want to stop…. My only real complaint is the open-backed design. I would have preferred a design similar to that of Set 10228 Haunted House which opens via hinges to give access to the interior, and then allows everything to be closed up when it’s time to just admire the outside of the building.
Some may grumble at the price - £129.99/$159.99 certainly isn’t cheap – but for over 1,600 pieces, eight minifigures and a wonderful, imaginative design I actually don’t think it’s bad value at all.
If you haven't had your fill of pictures from this set, I've posted a bunch more on my Flickr stream, including more detail on the interior; click here to visit.
Finally, many thanks to Kim at LEGO for providing us with a copy of the set to review.
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