Friday, August 28, 2020

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Origins Beast Man figure


It's still slim pickings for Mattel's MOTU Origins line around here as I type this, but I did get lucky and find remnants of the four figure assortment case, which seems to be the most elusive of all the Origins stock at the moment. After seeing that the largest Walmart in town had received one of those cases via Brickseek, I headed over and saw a lone Beast Man hanging among several Skeletor and He-Man figures. Amazed (but thankful) that someone had apparently bought a set of the figures but left Skeletor's right-hand henchman behind, I head toward the checkout. 

Beast Man is perhaps the closest of all the wave one MOTU Origins figures to his vintage counterpart. He uses the furry beast body, of course, making him unique among the figures released so far. As with the other figures, this is a recreation of the '80s parts, with slightly sharper detailing. These sharper details are perhaps most obvious when looking at the back of the figure's right hand, where the spiky weapon is plainly visible, as opposed to the very soft sculpt on the original. Unlike most of the wave, Beast Man's head is damn near exactly the same as the original, with only his gritted teeth really setting it apart. As you can see in the photos, the two heads are remarkably close. My one gripe with the figure's sculpt is the smooth little baby booties he seems to have slipped over his feet. Though this is a vintage-inspired line, they have been improving details and tweaking designs a bit in general, and this is an area where I think such a change would been most welcome. Give Beast Man some damn feet with claws on them, for Grodd's sake! I can't hold this against the designers too much, since these figures mostly adhere pretty closely to the vintage versions, but I do think they made a mistake in sticking so closely to the original figure here.

Most of the paint work is pretty neat, with some particularly crisp work on the face. Another casualty of aping (heheh) the original figure too closely is the paint work on the figure's armor, however. The designers opted to simply have the airbrushed blue blob sort of on and around the medallion, and call it done. This sort of  slapdash paint work was acceptable back in the day, but again, despite this being a vintage homage line, it just feels cheap and lazy here. I didn't expect them to paint every tiny sculpted detail on the armor, but I don't think it's unreasonable to at least expect the medallion to be neatly painted blue without the paint application spraying all around it just because the old toy did it that way. I really feel that this line can pay homage to the beloved classic line quite adequately while still improving little things like this, and it feels like a missed opportunity when they don't.

Beast Man sports the line's standard articulation, with a ball-jointed head, swivels at the waist and calves, and swivel & hinge shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles. I don't have anything new to say here, but I continue to like this articulation model quite a bit, and the parts-swapping feature continues to work well and add a lot of fun to the figures. Beast Man's lone accessory is his whip. Broken record time! The vintage figure had a whip with a handle that was too large for the figure to hold because it was borrowed from Mattel's larger-scaled Big Jim line. This necessitated the figure holding it be the little hand guard, rather than the handle itself. Again, I feel this is something that could have been "fixed" with the Origins line, but the line's designers apparently felt otherwise. This isn't a deal breaker or anything, but it is annoying. The standard wave one minicomic is also included, and as I stated in my reviews for the other wave one figures, it's short and underwhelming, but it's  awesome to be getting an honest-to-god minicomic with these figures. Hopefully they'll improve in the future.

While I feel this figure suffers more than some of the others from being too beholden to the vintage figure, it's still a great toy overall. Honestly, even with the handful of issues I have with it right out of the package, it's one of my favorites from this wave! It's just a shame that it isn't all that it could have been, but those factors won't be issues for everyone. Either way, Beast Man is still Skeletor's number one whipping boy, and an absolutely essential character to any incarnation of the MOTU mythos, so anyone who's interested in this line will no doubt be grabbing one of these. Warts and all, this is a good figure, and a fantastic vintage-style representation of the character. Even if they didn't quite knock it out of the park, it's great that Mattel has done a very solid job with such a crucial character. That's all for today, but be sure to swing back by next week for more! Man-at-Arms still eludes me, so next week's review will focus on something a bit... larger. Until then, happy hunting, and stay safe out there!

Here's a look at Beast Man after some repainting and drybrushing. A decent paint wash really makes you appreciate the detail in this sculpt!

Friday, August 21, 2020

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Origins Evil-Lyn figure

Despite managing to order Evil-Lyn from Walmart's supremely uncooperative website a couple of weeks ago, it took six days before it was actually shipped, so I actually had my store find He-Man in-hand first. Hence, this figure that I ordered a week prior is going up a week after him. Such are the hoops we jump through when a hot new toyline launches! Evil-Lyn's inclusion in the initial launch of the MOTU Origins line is an example of how Mattel is (thankfully) mixing things up a bit with the figure assortments, rather than rolling them out in more or less the same order as the vintage line. (Scare Glow in wave two, Ninjor in wave three, and Clamp Champ in the debut wave of the deluxe line are even better examples!) This is a very good thing in my mind, as it adds a bit of anticipation to reveals, instead of us all knowing who is coming next. It also means that those of us who count some of the later series figures among our favorites might not have to wait years to get Origins versions of them! (Seriously, we're already getting the Champ in a few short months! I am all over that!) It's particularly nice in this case, as Evil-Lyn is one of the core characters in the mythos, and it would really kinda suck if we had to wade through multiple waves before we got to her. 

As with Teela, with whom Evil-Lyn shares most of her parts, the sculpt is more or less a more sharply detailed recreation of its vintage counterpart, with a few differences. The weird left hand that both of the main MOTU ladies were saddled with always looked to me like they were being introduced to people at a fancy dinner party who were lining up to kiss their hands. Thankfully, this has been replaced with a functional grasping hand, adding to posing options far more than a recreation of the old "How do you do?" hand would have. Like her snake armored counterpart, Evil-Lyn also lacks the vintage figure's fuller Frazetta-style thunder thighs. Childhood me would be very disappointed! 

The biggest departure, as with most of these figures, is with the head. Evil-Lyn has a snarling expression that, while very specific to certain situations, does suit the character. The tiny teeth are individually sculpted, which surprised me a bit. The face does look noticeably different from the vintage figure, and it only kind of looks like this is the same person. It's not a bad sculpt, but it is different. As seen in the photo below, my figure's helmet wasn't put on straight during assembly, so the damn thing is crooked. It's not noticeable unless you're looking at her straight on, but it annoys me enough that a bit of surgery will be required. Hopefully the glue they use at the factory isn't too strong! Unfortunately, based on the many photos I've seen of other people's figures, the crooked helmet seems to be a widespread issue.

The paint apps are pretty neat for the most part, but my figure has a little blob of light blue between two of the points on her crooked helmet. This figure got beaten all up by the QC stick! The paint apps on the face are responsible in large part for how different this head sculpt looks from the original, as the lipstick and eye shadow applications are far more restrained. The eye shadow, in fact, is barely there at all! I'm still on the fence about whether or not to add some myself. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is something to be aware of.

Evil-Lyn sports the line's standard articulation, with a ball jointed head, swivels at the waist and boot tops, and swivel & hinge shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles. The joints move easily and hold poses well, and they pop apart and back on without much trouble. I do recommend heading the elbows, knees, and ankles before popping them out, as they're much smaller and tighter on the ladies. It's a great articulation model that I like quite a bit, though the knees stand out much more on the ladies. Evil-Lyn falls far short of the others in the accessory department, with only her magical orb staff. This is simply cast in light blue, and it does not glow in the dark as many of the vintage ones did. This really does feel like we're being shorted here, as there are numerous sensible options that could have been included to prevent the accessories from being so light. How about a set of swappable "spell casting" hands? What about the dagger that's been a standard inclusion since the character's 2002 iteration? Or a swappable head without the helmet? Or maybe a removable cape, since the character is often featured with one? With so many viable options, it really does feel like Mattel cheaped out here. The standard wave one minicomic is also included, and (broken record time!) it remains short and underwhelming, but it's cool as hell to get an honest-to-god minicomic with a figure in this day and age! Hopefully their quality will improve in the future.

As an essential character and a fan-favorite, Evil-Lyn is a sought-after figure for pretty much anyone who is collecting this line. Despite a few flaws, this is a good plastic rendition of the character, but unlike most of the wave one figures, I consider this one as a bit of a starting point. We need a better head, and we need more accessories. By all means, grab her if you can, but be prepared that the figure feels a little light compared to the rest of those released so far. She's good, but there's plenty of room for improvement. Below is a shot of the figure after a bit of repainting, mostly applying some metallic blue dry brushing to the armored parts of her outfit, and painting the orb on her staff. I'm not done with her yet, as I still have to remove the factory-applied blob on her helmet and paint in the boot detailing, but it's already looking better! That's all for this week, but swing on back next week for a look at another Origins figure! Until, then, happy hunting, and stay safe out there!

And here's a look at what happens when Evil-Lyn tries to sneak out for a girl's night out! ;)


Friday, August 14, 2020

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Origins He-Man figure


As Mattel's new Masters of the Universe Origins line continues its gradual rollout. more and more people are finding the figures at their local Walmart stores. The one nearest my house received a shipment Sunday, so Monday morning saw me driving over to see this awaiting me:

All joking aside, the feeling I get seeing MOTU figures in a store again, especially in the classic packaging, is indescribable. Many of my earliest memories revolve around MOTU, and seeing that package art. There's a deep connection there that makes me forget about all of my problems, and the new horrors we're all facing daily during this seemingly endless pandemic, and that's a very valuable thing. So, after paying for my precious discoveries, I buckled them up for the ride home.

Seriously, we have a lot of terrible drivers around here! ;) Despite a few lucky grabs on Walmart's website, the main man had still eluded me, so it's very nice to add him to the collection. There have been numerous figures of He-Man produced across the decades, each with their own strong points and weaknesses. How does this newest incarnation stack up? Read on...

The sculpt, for the most part, is something we're already pretty familiar with. New articulation model aside, this is a new rendition of the classic MOTU body we all know and love, and is remarkably faithful to it. One difference worth noting is that the bracers are now symmetrical, whereas He-Man traditionally has had a longer half bracer on his left forearm. I suspect this change was made since several aspects of the design hearken back to the early minicomics lushly illustrated by the great Alfredo Alcala, and the symmetrical bracers were seen in those. The head has been perhaps the object of the most discussion, both good and bad. It's definitely a departure from the vintage head, and while I was ambivalent about it when it was first revealed as part of last year's SDCC exclusive, I've grown to like it quite a bit. It seems Alcala-inspired, but is rendered in a slightly more cartoony style. I think it's a few tweaks away from being in the same class as the vintage head, but I do like it for what it is. Thankfully, we've already seen new heads that will be packaged with future releases, so people will have options. 

The paint apps are applied pretty well, overall. There's little slop or overspray, and what there is lies well within my expectations for a mass-produced kid-friendly toyline. It's nice to see that Mattel painted the fur fringe on the boots and the arm bracers. While this is what I expected, they didn't bother to paint those parts on certain other figures. As with Skeletor and Teela, I really love the bright, vivid colors Mattel is using for this line. They really do "pop" on the shelf!

The articulation is standard for the line. He-Man has a ball-jointed head, swivels at the waist and boot tops, and swivel & hinge shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles. It's a well-designed articulation model that I've grown to love, and He-Man snaps apart easily at each POA. The parts pop apart easily, yet don't feel loose when attached. The designers deserve a great deal of acclaim for their work here!

He-Man includes all of his standard accessories, though with sculpts differing a good bit from their vintage counterparts. The power sword is the opposite half to the one packaged with Skeletor, and is sculpted in the Alcala style. The swords fit together easily, though there is a bit of slight warping. As you can see in the photo below, they'll need a dip in some hot water to straighten the tips of the blades. The axe and shield are also sculpted in the style seen in the early Alcala-illustrated comics, and the shield is quite a bit larger than the vintage one. It is one piece, and the handle's design is sturdier than its vintage counterpart. I don't foresee this one breaking as easily as the old one did! Last, but certainly not least, is He-Man's chest armor. It's the classic gray and red armor we all remember, but again, it's sculpted in Alcala style, so the back is different than the vintage version. There's an added loop that can be used to store a weapon. I quite like this design, and it does seem as if it may be less prone to breaking over time, though only time will tell for sure. You do have to pop the figure's torso off to remove it, though. The minicomic is the same as with other figures in this debut wave, so all the same comments apply: It's too short and underwhelming, but I still love that we're getting an honest-to-god minicomic with these figures. Hopefully the quality of them will improve in the future. 

With any MOTU line, the standard He-Man figure is the biggest hurdle. Mattel could easily have played it safe, but they took some risks by giving us a figure that blended the vintage toy with some design cues from the early minicomics. Collectors seem to be divided, but personally, I love it! We've gotten the same basic design so many times that, ironically, going backward helps to move things forward in this case. By taking some elements from the earliest MOTU media, the iconic character's design has been freshened up a bit, bringing something different to the table. This isn't a perfect figure, as I like but don't love the new head, but it's a damn good one, and a more than worthy successor to all that have gone before. That's it for today, but be sure to swing back by next week for more! In the meantime, happy hunting, and stay safe out there!

Here's a look at this figure after a bit of repainting. I did less work here than with the other figures, as much of the detail I painted in on those is already taken care of with He-Man. It mostly amounted to a light paint wash and some bronze drybrushing, plus some silver on the edges of the axe's blades. I'm planning to apply a paint wash to the hair as well, but I don't have the color I want to use, so that'll have to wait until my next trip into town.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Rant Review: Masters of the Universe Origins Skeletor figure

The August 1 launch date for Mattel's new-ish Masters of the Universe Origins line has come and gone, and things seem to have gone pretty much the way most of us expected. The amount of product on store shelves was rather lacking, and many stores (including all three in my city) received nothing at all. Meanwhile, everything still showed up as "sold out" on Walmart's website, so no help there, either. Both Mattel and Walmart have longstanding issues getting an ample amount of product on shelves, so this wasn't exactly a surprise. Frustrating at the situation is, we just need to have a bit of patience; first waves of major lines are always abundant, even if it takes a bit of time for lots of product to make it to store shelves. In a few months, when we're all hunting for wave 2, we'll no doubt be cursing the wave 1 figures that remain on the pegs. In the meantime, Walmart's website lottery continues, with figures randomly available to order for upwards of 30 entire seconds, which allowed me to get my second figure from this line, the Lord of Destruction himself!

We'll become very familiar with most of this sculpt, as it will form the basis of the majority of figures in this line, in grand MOTU tradition. For now, however, it's the first time seeing the new incarnation of these classic MOTU parts in person. (Aside from all those Masters of the WWE Universe figures I've gotten, anyway!) The sculpt is a very close match to the vintage figures, especially the torso. Some parts have a bit more detail, such as the little emblem on the belt. The sculpt on the chest armor is particularly sharp. The "boots" look to have the greatest difference in look from the vintage counterpart, with plenty more detail. (Anyone who was concerned with the construction of the lower legs on the prototype will be happy to know that these have been redesigned, correcting the issues the prototype had.) The left hand is a gesturing hand, as with the vintage figure. I'm glad this was retained, as Mattel was quick to change it to a grasping hand with the MOTUC line after fan complaints. I greatly prefer something like this that mixes things up a bit and aids in dramatic poses. The most hotly debated part of these figures, aside from their very existence, is the head sculpts. The new heads represent the biggest deviation from the vintage line, with varying degrees of success. I quite like Skeletor's open mouth, though from certain angles, it can look a bit like an old man with withered lips screaming at someone. Unlike the vintage figure, the hood does not join together at the bottom, eliminating the "bonnet" look the '80s figure had. I would have preferred a hinged jaw, but I'll take this over yet another close-mouthed sculpt. Hopefully we will get some alternate head sculpts in the future so people can mix and match according to their personal preferences. 

The few paint apps, all of which are on the figure's "face," are a mixed bag. The green area around the outer part of the skull is crisp and neat, though I preferred the fading-in airbrushed look on the prototype. The black areas on the nose and mouth are very neat, while the eyes have uneven amounts of red. The big screw-up is with the teeth. Where the prototype left this area unpainted, Mattel opted to highlight the spaces between the teeth with little black lines. That's all well and good, but these apps are misaligned on my figure. From photos I've seen, this is apparently a widespread issue. Mattel typically does a good job in this category, but they shit the bed a bit here. Thankfully, paint issues are an easy fix, and I'm planning to do a good bit of repainting to these figures, anyway. They definitely need to address this for the majority of buyers who will not, though. The overall color scheme is nice and bright, with shades of blue and purple that really pop! They make even the vintage figure look rather drab in comparison.

The articulation model on these figures is very well-designed, and blends well with the sculpt. (On the males, anyway.) Skeletor has a ball-jointed head, swivels at the waist and calves, and swivel & hinge shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles. I really like the articulation model they're using on these, and all POAs work very well, allowing for a wide range of cool and dynamic poses. As with all figures in the line, Skeletor pops apart easily at most of these POAs, allowing for easy customization. Despite that, the joints feel nice and sturdy, and not at all as if they might come off on their own. This may change over time with much use, but only time will tell.

All of Skeletor's standard accessories are present and accounted for, including his half of the Sword of Grayksull, the Havoc Staff, and his chest armor and baltea, if you count those. While I like the half-swords thing as a plot point, rooted as it is in my beloved early MOTU minicomics, I would have preferred a full sword here. I admit that part of that is due to memories of the vintage half-swords looking weird and not fitting in the figure's hands (unless you had them hold them by the hand guard, but who the hell does that?) when they were combined, so I may soften on this point if they fit together very well once I manage to score a He-Man. The sculpt of the sword is great, pure Alcala, and the Havoc Staff is a sharply-detailed update of the vintage version. The armor is nice and soft, and goes on and off with no issues. The weapons are cast in a harder plastic than the armor, so they're not soft and pliable like the armor is. Mattel has had problems with that in the past, so it's nice to see they addressed it here. Skeletor also includes the minicomic that ships with all the figures in wave 1. As I said in my review of Teela, the contents are short and underwhelming, but it's still fantastic to have an honest-to-god minicomic included with these toys! 

Despite some iffy paint apps, I really love this figure. True, it's Skeletor, who is probably my favorite character from anything ever, so it would have to be a total stinker for me to dislike it. Still, the designers have done a great job crafting this figure. It's a great nostalgia piece with loads of appeal for adults who grew up with this stuff. More importantly, it's a damn good toy. For this line to survive and thrive in retail, it must capture a wider market than adult collectors alone can provide, and for that to happen, these have to be engaging toys that kids will enjoy. I think they're managed it. This line stands poised to capture the love of a new generation, if only Mattel can keep the stores supplied with product. With new media set to debut beginning next year, we may well see a new wave of He-Mania sweep the nation! (Yeah, that was cheesy as hell. No, I don't care.) That's it for today, but swing back next week, when I'll have a review of the other figure I managed to wrest from the clutches of Walmart's uncooperative website! In the meantime, here's a look at this figure after I did a bit of repainting.