This is the weakest DC set of the fantastic new wave by some distance. The minifigures are almost always what sell Super Heroes sets and a few new characters is usually enough to warrant the purchase. Unfortunately that is not the case for 76027 Black Manta Deep Sea Strike as although it contains a highly desirable Black Manta minifigure, this is simply not sufficiently impressive.
The fact that only a single new character is included is disappointing, but probably even more so is the price of £49.99 in the UK and $39.99 in the US. Those of us in the UK (and other countries) often point out the discrepancy in pricing between the US and the rest of the world, but few sets feel the difference quite so sharply. As the set contains 386-pieces even the US price is not particularly good value, but for the UK and overseas it is obviously substantially worse.
Anyway, let's discuss the merits of the set itself and put aside the price for the time being.
Box and Contents
The box is a little smaller than I had expected but features some nice artwork showing the heroes' attempts to free Robin from the clutches of Black Manta. On the back we see the features of the set and an action shot of the minifigures in battle.
There are four numbered bags inside along with three instruction manuals and a small sticker sheet. There is no need to include three manuals, but I suppose this would be beneficial if more than one person were building at the same time.
This set is all about Black Manta and as such I will start with him. This is a superb minifigure, closely resembling Black Manta as he appears in the comics and featuring a suitably intimidating helmet. The helmet is one piece, but it is fitted unusually as it comes in two halves linked only by the black tubing. You place the neck piece on and then fix that down by pushing the rest of the helmet over it. The result looks fantastic and although the shape and colours are simple, they look perfectly accurate to me. The torso is also fairly bland with some subtle grey detailing printed over muscle definition on the front and back, and his legs are plain black. There is no need for any more detail than this in my opinion as it is accurate to the comics and he comes armed with a pearl silver spear which matches his helmet nicely.
The next minifigure is Black Manta's arch nemesis: Aquaman. This figure is identical to that in 76000 Arctic Batman vs. Mr Freeze: Aquaman on Ice, which is a shame as I think one or two improvements could have been made. The hair piece is not ideal for the character in my opinion and I would have preferred a shorter style more like that seen in the comics. Personally I think a blonde version of Superman's hair piece would have worked better than this one. His head is printed with two expressions, one angry and the other fairly neutral. The scaly orange shirt worn by Aquaman is captured very nicely by the torso design on the front and back while his legs are plain green. Just like the minifigure released in 2013, Aquaman is equipped with the golden Trident of Neptune.
Although the focus of the DC sets so far this year seems to have shifted away from Batman, he nevertheless makes appearances in this set and 76026 Gorilla Grodd Goes Bananas along with one of his arsenal of vehicles. Batman has received a substantial redesign for this year which notably includes a brand new cowl. The ears have been shortened and the chinstrap is now printed on the head rather than being moulded into the cowl. I like this redesign as the old chinstrap was probably a little too bulky, although the original version was perfectly serviceable. The head is printed on one side with Bruce Wayne's face and on the other with some breathing apparatus. The same piece appeared last year in 76010 Batman: The Penguin Face Off where the hero was also at work underwater.
The soft cape is new this year and I love it. No longer is there any need to worry about creasing the fabric when the minifigure is sat down and the material hangs more realistically behind the figure. Batman's torso is printed with muscle detailing and a bat symbol on the front as well as a golden utility belt which continues onto the back. His legs are plain dark bluish grey which is a bit of a shame as some detail would have been nice, and he wields a batarang.
The fourth and final minifigure is a new variant of Robin, this time in scuba gear. The red helmet is the usual design and features the usual trans-light blue underwater goggles which can be hinged up to reveal his face. This features the same black eye mask as ever on one side but on the other is a new design featuring breathing apparatus much like that of Batman, while some yellow air tanks are present in place of his cape. The torso is printed on the front and back with more breathing equipment and the ever-present Robin insignia. The legs are red and he wears some black flippers, although he won't be getting much use from those it would seem as he comes with a pair of handcuffs and a chain for imprisoning the minifigure.
The Completed Model
Four models are included in this set, the first of which is a shark. This creature seems to have been recruited by Black Manta as the body section is cast in black for the first time while the head features a sticker with some electronics on it. Perhaps this is a robot shark, although since the comic book included has Aquaman turn the shark on its master by means of his super powers, it is presumably a normal shark, albeit one under the control of a supervillain bent on world domination. Two guns are fitted to the belly of the shark and there are some glow in the dark 1x1 round plates here too which is a nice detail.
A small portion of Atlantis is also included where Black Manta has imprisoned Robin. This is a very simple little model with four columns, one of which has collapsed, some undersea plants and a mount for the trident. Robin is hung upside down using a chain but can be released by knocking down the top section of the structure. I would like this feature much more if this could be done using a missile found in the set, but unfortunately only the super jumper has the required force behind it.
Speaking of the super jumper, one is included in this set. I am not keen on it at all and since it has been reported that placing minifigures in position on the piece can cause damage to them I am even less inclined to use them. I would not be at all surprised if this were a problem as it can be quite tough to wrench the figures in and out, and the legs appear to be under some stress when they are in place.
Black Manta has not kidnapped Robin without good reason and I suspect he intends to ambush the heroes when they arrive to rescue the Boy Wonder. He has a pretty substantial semi-circular submarine with him for this purpose and this is a great model in my opinion. As far as I am aware it is not based on any particular vehicle from the comics, but it borrows features from various sources and comes together nicely.
There is plenty of room for Black Manta in the cockpit and a sticker with an image of the sea floor forms a control panel for him. A couple of stud shooters are found at the front of the vehicle which launch missiles and there is a nice Black Manta insignia beside the orange canopy too. This canopy might be useful for MOCs themed around Ice Planet 2002, an ever popular subject. The submarine is generally suited to Black Manta and although it is not the most advanced model in terms of building techniques, its fulfills its purpose.
Batman's Batsub on the other hand is more impressive. This is a sleek vehicle with some lovely curved shapes running the length of the ship. A bubble canopy covers the driver's seat and there is a steering wheel in here as well as room to store the batarang, although this is loose and might move around if you are swooshing the model around. The pair of moveable flick fire missile pods on either side of the cockpit do not interfere significantly with the general shape of the submarine and add some extra playability, so I am happy to see them included.
At the rear is a detachable mini sub and a tall fin which brings the shape of the vehicle to a nice sharp tip. This is one of my favourite bat vehicles released so far simply because it looks so elegant. The only improvement that I would make is to add a spring loaded missile launcher to free Robin, which would fit quite nicely in the nose of the submarine I think.
This is not a bad set as a whole and the Black Manta minifigure is going to be a must have for many DC fans I am sure, but priced at £49.99 I don't recommend it. At a decent sale price of perhaps £34.99 or even less this is a good buy, although even then I would probably recommend other Super Heroes sets over this one.
I love the design of the Batsub, although the most interesting part of the set in my opinion is probably the very fact that it exists. Hopefully it is a sign of things to come that LEGO are willing to release sets based on Aquaman, a member of the Justice League who is perhaps not known to everyone unlike Superman or Batman. I look forward to seeing similar sets in future.