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. 

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