LEGO Brick Sketches are a new collectible series of brick-built portraits of popular characters. A departure from the standard “building toy” concept, but in many respects similar to the collectibility angle of LEGO BrickHeadz, these are small pieces of art meant to be hung on the wall or displayed on a shelf. Slated to be available July 15, they will retail for US $19.99 | EU €19.99 each. The first four sets in the series are split between DC and Star Wars characters, and this time we’ll take a close look at the two comic book offerings, 40386 Brick Sketches: Batman and 40428 Brick Sketches: The Joker.
The box and contents
The front of the packaging takes a straightforward approach. You’ve got the new Brick Sketch logo, a nice closeup of the character, and a couple of logos for DC and Batman. These sets are listed for the “8+” age range. There’s a bit of subtle color variation between the Batman’s dark blue background and the Joker’s more purple tone.
The back of the box has the expected “action shots” – in this case calling out the two display modes for the sketches. There’s also a bit of art showing someone assembling a sketch. It’s somewhat obvious that they didn’t want to risk making the characters unrecognizable, so they just popped off a couple of non-essential top-level details. The couple of loose plates do manage to illustrate that this is, indeed, a LEGO set, I suppose.
Inside the boxes are the expected instruction booklet and a few unnumbered part bags. Batman had three bags and a couple of loose parts, and the Joker had four bags. The Batman’s part count feels a bit light at 115 pieces, compared to the Joker’s 166 pieces. That creates a pretty wide swing on the price-per-part equation, with Batman coming in at over 17 cents each, and the Joker at 12. Not too bad considering these are licensed properties, but not great if you’re thinking of these as parts packs at the full retail price.
Each Brick Sketch is based around a 12 x 16 base, with layers of plates stacked on top to create the image. Batman is a very straightforward build, but it helps if you put his ears on facing the correct directions in step 11. (Whoops) There’s some nice shaping to the eyes and cowl by way of cut bow plates.
My only real complaint about the build is the 2×2 plates used for his teeth. You get a visible seam in the middle of Batman’s mouth that makes him look a little buck-toothed. It’s a small nit, and if I hadn’t mentioned it you might never have noticed. But I bet you can’t unsee it now.
The Joker is a more satisfying build. There are a lot of fiddly detail bits, and a bit of SNOT building in the mouth and chin. The ears and collar also have a tiny bit of deviation from “standard” building, as they are connected by a single stud and rotated to sit flush against the rest of the build at unusual angles.
The overall look is great, with each layer really adding to the shaping. I like how the eyes and teeth use different shades of yellow to contrast with the white of the face. The green curved horns for eyebrows are also super expressive.
As mentioned earlier, Brick Sketches are designed to be displayed by hanging on a wall or free-standing on a shelf. For both characters this is accomplished by the same construction. A coupling plate acts as a nail hanger, and a folding brace allows the sketch to sit at an angle.
The finished models
The finished Batman model looks great — instantly recognizable, great shaping in the cowl, and an accurately grumpy expression. It’s a very “Batman the Animated Series” take on the character. Personally, that’s my favorite version, so no complaints there.
There’s enough depth to the build to be interesting in a 3D sense. There’s a pretty big height jump between Batman’s face and the tip of his nose, but no worse than I’ve seen artists draw in Batman comics in the past. And it’s a valid trade off for that great sneer.
As far as super-easy customization goes, I did notice that my earlier build mistake of flipping the “ear orientation” created a more “Frank Miller-esque” version of Batman.
The Joker is a really great build, visually interesting in both character recognition and LEGO shaping. Again it looks very “Animated Series” in styling, making it a good match for the Batman sketch.
The more complex build here makes the final model even more dynamic with the right lighting. It really helps showcase the contours, particularly around the nose.
As expected, from the side the Joker holds up well, too. The design of the eyes means they’re nicely inset and don’t “bulge out” when seen from an angle.
My favorite bit, though, is how easy it is to tweak the Joker’s expression. Just by flipping those curved horns around you can get three very different looks.
Conclusions and recommendation
When I first heard about Brick Sketches I was pretty skeptical. Did this theme really offer something different from BrickHeadz? After building these two models, I think there’s some good potential here. Brick Sketches are different enough to stand on their own. The more photo-realistic approach to the characters is welcome, and you can’t deny that they look great. As small pieces of art, they’re sure to be popular among both LEGO collectors and mainstream DC fans.
In terms of value, these two sets vary widely in part count (115 vs 166), but both have a price point similar to other licensed super hero sets. The Joker is a better per-part value, and has a much nicer range of elements for builders to reuse in their own creations. From a collectible standpoint, you can’t go wrong with a set featuring Batman or the Joker, and being part of the first wave of Brick Sketches will likely be a plus. I’m comfortable recommending picking these up at full price, but I don’t think I’ll be buying any duplicates unless there’s a sale.
I wondered how these sets and the $20 price point look to people who aren’t as LEGO-focused as I am. So while doing one of those social-distancing video check-ins, I asked my parents about them. My dad went on record with: “These feel like something I’d pick up as a gift. $20 for the Joker is fine, but the Batman should be cheaper. $15 maybe.” He was also impressed with the Joker’s build in general, going as far as to describe it as “really neat looking.” Trust me, that’s high praise.
If you’d like to learn more about the history of this new theme, be sure to check out our behind the scenes interview with the designer, Chris McVeigh. And be on the lookout for a review of the Star Wars half of the first wave in the near future!
40386 Brick Sketches: Batman and 40428 Brick Sketches: The Joker will be available July 15 and will retail for US $19.99 | EU €19.99 each. They will also available via third-party sellers on Amazon and eBay.
The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of these sets for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.
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