LEGO continues to tempt adult collectors with sets that are more about a displayable model than the more traditional brick-based play experience. Of note are mini-statues featuring helmets from Star Wars and Marvel properties, a theme that has seen some recent expansions. There are even more on the way, including Marvel villains Venom and Carnage. But DC Comics properties have been strangely absent from the mix…until now. 76182 Batman Cowl was revealed last month and will be available on April 26th and can be pre-ordered now from the LEGO Shop Online for US $59.99 | CAN $79.99 | UK £54.99. This 410-piece set features the caped crusader’s signature headgear, but is it something you’d want to display? Come along as we take a close look at just what this set has to offer, both to the Bat-Fan and the wider LEGO audience.
The LEGO Group provided The Brothers Brick with an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.
The box and contents
If there’s a character that fits well into the minimalist black theming of the LEGO 18+ “adult” line, it’s Batman. The box for this set is the same oversized package we’ve seen in the other helmet/head sets, with the front of the box limited to a couple of logos, a product shot, and an information strip at the bottom.
The back of the thumb-punch box is laid out in the same style as the other sets in the theme. You get a different angle on the model and three inset graphics. As usual, the center image is a head-on shot with the height (22 cm/ 8.5 inches) called out. On either side are images pulled from the comics. Considering the wide range of outfits that Batman has worn over the years, it must have been a small challenge to find examples that had a look that more-or-less matched this set.
Inside the box are three numbered parts bags and a 96 page, perfect-bound instruction book. Like the other helmet sets, the cover for the instructions is free of logos and extra text, making for a fairly somber presentation.
The first two pages feature a quick overview of the Batman character and some insights into the creative process for this set from LEGO designer Junya Suzuki. Of note is the decision not to replicate a particular bat-cowl, but rather to “create something that wasn’t specific to any one version, but still captured that unmistakable essence of Batman.” Unfortunately, when I hear “essence of Batman,” I imagine some really foul-smelling cologne released as a movie tie-in. But I get what they’re aiming for here—and I do think they managed to create a cowl that isn’t going to be mistaken for any other character.
Unfortunately, there is a problem with the instructions. Although LEGO has announced they’re moving away from black backgrounds on 18+ set instructions, this set still features black pages. This feels like more of a pain than usual, considering the almost-all-black color scheme for this set. In general, the parts were outlined in white and new pieces had a highlighted color to their edging, so it wasn’t impossible to follow. But it wasn’t particularly fun, either. Oddly, Marvel’s 76187 Carnage, another helmet/head set with mostly black parts which I also recently reviewed, has light grey pages and provided a much better experience. Both sets have the same release date.
I didn’t spot any particularly rare pieces in this set, although there is a good mix of useful parts. There is only one printed element, the title card for the display stand. It’s currently unique to this set. (I can’t imagine why.) This set also comes with a brick separator, a small but useful perk that was cut from the Venom and Carnage sets in this wave.
Like the other sets in this theme, the build starts with a sturdy base that is strengthened by internal Technic beam supports. In a departure from the norm, this time those beams are enclosed in transparent black elements. It’s a different look that will tie into the “head” of the display later on.
The core of the display is built around a mostly hollow core ringed by SNOT connection points. Where possible, window elements are used to provide a good amount of support without adding a lot of weight.
The top and back of the cowl use stacked plate and a few slope bricks to create some good-looking curves. The exposed studs remind the viewer that they’re looking at a LEGO model while allowing for a smoother approach for the font of the mask. (Although I think they could have done a bit more tile work.) The ears are integrated into the sides of the cowl, protruding just a bit and providing some visual interest when the completed model is seen from the side.
As mentioned earlier, the base of the display uses transparent black elements to create a “head” for the cowl to sit on. According to the intro text in the instructions, this was done to “[allow] you to create your own identity for the character, rather than tying him to any one version of Batman.”
The face of the cowl is a fairly straightforward build. The nose is attached on a hinged brick, and the curved slopes on the forehead plate cover the connection points pretty well. Part of me enjoys the more “shocked” wide-eyed look in the steps before the eyebrow slopes get put on, though.
The final bit of construction is assembling the chin strap. It has a similar construction to the jaw on the Venom and Carnage masks, using hinges to create a flexible strip that clips together in the center.
The finished model
The finished model does indeed look like a Batman cowl, so full points there. It’s also a fingerprint-magnet, a common lament for factory-fresh black LEGO brick. You might want to spend a few minutes wiping down your copy before putting it on display…but know as soon as anyone touches it you’re going to need to do some additional cleaning.
Does the semi-transparent “head” work? Honestly, I’m not sure. In the right light there’s enough distinction to see where the cowl ends and the stand begins. In less than perfect conditions, though, the mouth area reads just as “black” as the rest of the build, creating a more bland full-face cowl than the designers intended.
From the top and back the build also has a few issues, with the overhead shot showcasing the downside of having the ears stick out. The head seems too thick in the rear, but possibly that’s only a problem from this rather odd vantage point. Seen directly from the back the proportions “read” pretty close to right. I still think the build could benefit from more tiles to smooth out the curves. But these aren’t the angles that most people are going to see the set from, so maybe that’s unnecessary.
Profile and head-on views look good, but once again I have to wonder if the minimalist “head” solution was the best choice. I think I would have liked to see a transparent-black face that came out to meet the nose on the cowl. Having the curved slope alone suggests an undersized head more than just a “hat rack” concept.
Conclusion and recommendation
I’d like to be uniformly positive about this set, but I think it falls short on a few counts. There are little things like the black-background instructions that are easy to move past, as few will care once the build is done. But there are also larger issues like the only partially successful transparent “head” and the slightly wonky shaping for the cowl as a whole. The price is also a big concern. At $60 US for 410 pieces this set comes in at nearly 15 cents per part, an abysmally high ratio. Even dropping this to a $40 US price point only brings things down to 10 cents a part, which is still high for a set with no minifigures or other expensive elements. That makes this set a very poor choice for those looking for elements to re-use in their own creations. You don’t even get any new or recolored parts for that cost; just a bunch of fairly common black elements. (Okay, there is that printed title card plate. But c’mon, that’s not really a huge draw for most.) Unless you’re lucky enough to have a Bruce Wayne-level LEGO budget (or are a Bat-Fanatic) wait for a steep sale on this one. Better yet, check out some of the other Super Hero offerings in the spring wave.
DC 76182 Batman Cowl will be available on April 26th and can be pre-ordered now from the LEGO Shop Online for US $59.99 | CAN $79.99 | UK £54.99. It may also available via third-party sellers on Amazon and eBay.
The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.
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