Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Toy Review – Masters of the Universe Classics Snake Men By Mattel

You know what I like best about the Snake Men? They hate everybody.

These serpentine humanoids are foes of the Masters, Skeletor, and Hordak. And led by their King, Hssss, they succeed in being a pain in the ass for all of the other factions. I think there are two reasons for this:
  1. They are all snakes. Rather than being a disparate horde of assorted carnival freaks – guys with giant fists, super-long necks, or enchanted club feet – King Hssss’ subjects are all one big, fangy family.
  2. Everybody hates snakes. Historically, there is no more insidious or reviled villain than a snake. Indiana Jones hates them, they are basis for an entire religion of evil in Lair of the White Worm, and just look at all of the villainous characters with snake-based motifs:
    1. Kobra
    2. Viper
    3. The Serpent Society
    4. Jake “The Snake” Roberts – Not always evil, but when he was he was the best heel in the business
    5. Copperhead – Definitely the creepiest villain to be featured on Justice League Unlimited.
    6. (Sssss) – What is the only thing that could possibly make blatant misogynist Dirk Benedict even more evil? Turning into a damned, dirty snake.
    7. COBRA – A terrorist army who were so dedicated to the evil that serpents represent that they code-named everything after snakes.
I could go on and on, but I’ve quite frankly lost interest. I want to talk about these figures now.
Matty has really kicked out the snake jams in 2012. I guess they felt bad for King Hssss having to hang out all by himself with no scaly subordinates to kick around. We’ve gotten Kobra Khan and Rattlor (though he came out later than these guys) and now two generic Snake Men. But I will not allow these brave warriors to go unnamed (mostly because it will make writing the review easier). Where Mattel dropped the ball, I am going to step up and christen…

Wait a minute – what’s the Eternian word for “christen”? I don’t want to say “dub” because all that needs is “step” following it and it becomes lame x 1000. I’m not gonna lie – I would pay good money for an Encyclopedia Eternica to answer questions like these. 

I am going to step up and… name… these fellows.

This is Scale Male. 

And this is Asp-Hole. 

I really wanted it to be the other way around because I feel like the scaly guy just looks like more of a jerk, but I couldn’t very well not call the scaly guy the scaly name. I am reviewing these figures together rather than singly because I almost always review things as they are packaged for retail. For the most part I try to review things from the perspective of examining the manufacturers’ intentions for the product.

First Glance: I’m not entirely happy with the yellow. I don’t know why, but I was expecting brown and was surprised to see yellow when I opened the mailer. I mean, that’s my own dumbass fault because I had seen the yellow time and again since these were revealed; but I guess my brain just really wanted them to not be yellow. And it isn’t terrible by any means, it just isn’t the color I would have chosen. Actually, I wouldn’t have made these guys the same color. I would have made one a bright, vibrant green and the other either a light brown or maybe even purple. Still, they look good in the box and are just different enough from Rattlor and Kobra Khan to be okay.

Articulation: There are some minor variances here due to the sculpts being used, so I can’t throw out my catch-all “standard Masters of the Universe Classics articulation” line.

Scale Male
Head – ball joint
Shoulders – ball joint
Biceps – swivel
Elbows –pivot
Wrists – swivel
Waist – swivel
Hips – ball joint
Thighs – swivel
Knees – pivot
Ankles – rocker joint

Scale Male is mostly standard, but lacks the calf articulation that most MOTUC figures have due to his sculpt. I appreciate that the Horsemen left it out rather than putting an ugly line across those scales. Besides that, if there’s one joint this line could live without, it’s that one. I like having it, but it doesn’t exactly add a ton of posability options. 

The movement of the ankle joint is so restricted that it might as well be a simple pivot. This is becoming more and more common within the line and I’m not sure why. Previous figures would just require a bit of movement to loosen the ankle joint up, but recent releases just haven’t had a whole lot of side-to-side movement. Actually, all of Scale-Male’s movement is somewhat limited. I suppose it’s due to the thickness of his scaled skin and I have to say I’m okay with it. But we’ll get into that in the Sculpt section.

Like most MOTUC figures, the joints are worked into the sculpt fairly well. All of them move freely and hold poses well on my figure.

Asp-Hole
Head – ball joint
Shoulders – ball joint
Biceps – swivel
Elbows –pivot
Wrists – swivel
Waist – swivel
Hips – ball joint
Thighs – swivel
Knees – pivot
Calves - swivel
Ankles – rocker joint

Asp-Hole’s articulation works a little better than Scale Male’s. But, like Kobra Khan, his elbows do not pivot as much as you’d like. Otherwise all of the joints on mine work well.

Sculpt: Scale Male looks amazing. I absolutely love the detail of all the little scales on this guy and I have to give Matty and the Horsemen credit for sculpting them. They do make his joints a bit less functional and the added thickness makes his elbows and knees downright wonky. But it looks so good. For some reason I find it really amusing that this guy retains all of his musculature through the scales. 

This guy has a new neck piece that thickens up the standard neck. It looks good and blends with the torso, but it just doesn’t quite match up with the head. It isn’t bad or even all that noticeable, but from behind it looks weird to see the two combined.

I very much like the hands and feet on this sculpt. The three-fingered hands are strange and off-putting. The feet look like old-school Ninja Turtle feet. It’s cute and charming on the Turtles, but creepy on Scale Male.

The head is new and unique. I’m going to call the closed-mouth heads the standards. Scale Male’s is new and unique and looks just as good as the rest of the body. The sculpted scales are tiny and precise, the beady little eyes are sinister-looking, and there are some ridges and horns to add a bit of character. I wish the fangs were sharper.

Scale Male is sporting the longer furry loin cloth favored by King Grayskull and Snake Man-At-Arms. I prefer this one to the shorter one, but that’s neither here nor there.

Asp-Hole is a mixture of Kobra Khan parts and regular villain parts. I would have liked it if he had a snakier torso, but I’m also kind of glad they didn’t give him Khan’s. It’s just a bit too distinctive to be sharing. As it stands, the rest of Asp-Hole’s parts are just serpentine enough to work. The forearms, calves, neck, and head do enough to make this guy look like a Snake Man. The thighs aren’t necessarily snaky, but the protrusions do enhance the look. 

This guy’s head is scaled and shaped fairly differently from Scale Male’s and as a result works a lot better. The longer scales covering the back of the head hang down to conceal the neck joint. This actually works even better than Kobra Khan’s head. Scale Male’s head is smoother than Asp-Hole’s and has a unique look. 

Asp-Hole has the same trunks as Kobra Khan. I like the scaled appearance and the angular belt they used. I’m still surprised by how well this soft plastic piece works every time they use it.

Coloring: Here’s where we run into a real problem. Some stupid fuckwit decided it would be a good idea to mold these out of black plastic and some other stupid fuckwit OK’d that decision. I’m sure there were even more fuckwits than that involved, but at least those two had the power to make that asinine decision not occur. Instead, we have a solid run of MOTUC figures that look at least a little bit shitty. Not just from the black plastic that is clearly visible through chips, scratches, and plain lack of coverage in the paint; but also because the painted parts do not quite match up to the shade and gloss of the rest of the color. Also, Asp-Hole’s hands are painted, so every act of putting a weapon into his hands scrapes a little paint off. So just know that the whole “Color” section is tainted by this.

Aside from that fairly major error in judgment these figures look very nice. I am not a fan of the yellow, but that is personal taste and not any sort of actual production problem. 

Asp-Hole is a slightly lighter yellow. There are some highlights and variations in the paint on his body to keep him from looking like a big wad of Play-Doh. His underbelly and neck are a paler color that is subtly blended into the rest. The claws on his hands and feet are detailed and the armor on his calves looks awesome. The brown is a nice accent for the yellow skin and the dark paint in the scaled detailing looks great.

His trunks and belt look solid. I’m impressed that nobody else has had the problems that Snout Spout had – the paint rubbing off of the soft plastic of the trunks. I still don’t understand why that happened on that one figure unless maybe somebody decided, “Well, he’s a stupid piece of shit anyway; let’s fuck up his paint.”

Asp-Hole’s eyes are a vicious red and his fangs are tightly detailed. His head features the same sort of coloring as his body and looks good, if a bit dull compared to Kobra Khan and Rattlor.

Scale Male is darker – almost orange. He also has some variations in color around the scales. His neck and underbelly are paler in the same way as Asp-Hole’s, but it isn’t as apparent due to his huge chest plate. 

The loin cloth is painted pretty much like every other MOTUC loin cloth. It looks fine. I do like that the central stud on the belt is colored. It adds a nice little something.

His head is colored more subtly than Asp-Hole’s, but I love the green eyes. Those and the fangs are tightly done.

Flair: Asp-Hole has the better armor piece in my opinion. It’s an over-the-shoulder harness with a big ol’ armor plate on the chest topped by one on the left shoulder. Very gladiatorial. I dig it. The detailing is nice, with texture on the harness and bolts or studs or whatever on the armor pieces. I also like the large armor piece on the back. The Official Snake Men Seal or whatever is nicely painted and stands out well on the armor.

Scale Male has this chunky chest plate that looks awesome but prevents the figure from lowering its arms all the way. This is another one that looks like the kid from A Christmas Story. I honestly kind of wish the armor pieces like this were sculpted onto the torso. But it does look really cool. There are a couple of ridges that work the snake motif and I like how there appear to be overlapping plates bolted together. It’s a cool design for armor and the blue makes this guy stand out.

Accessories: (Sorry - I forgot to take a proper Accessories picture) This set includes a sword, a shield, a spear, and a mace; as well as an extra head for each Snake Man.

The heads are the same as the regular ones, but with open mouths. The sculpt and color are exactly the same and look nice. I really like the interiors of their mouths. Matty did a great job with the colors.

The weapons also look very cool. At first I was impressed that they had painted details, but then I was sad that I was impressed. I still haven’t recovered from Stinkor’s shitty fucking weapons. But these aren’t like that. The handles are painted, as are the gems and the trim on the shield. I totally dig the curved blades on the sword and spear and the shield looks slick, if a bit fancier than I would have imagined. I’m not crazy about the mace. It kind of looks like somebody threw a bunch of nails into a cotton candy machine. I suppose that swirly pattern on the head is a for-real design n from some ancient peoples or something, but I think it looks kind of goofy.

The shield fits securely onto either Snake Man’s arm and the weapons fit in their hands pretty well. I mean, aside from the fact that you’re going to scrape all of the paint off of (Asp-Hole’s) hand.

Packaging: I am still quite taken with the packaging for this line. I’ve been buying Masters of the Universe Classics for three years now (literally – November of 2009’s Scareglow was my first purchase) and it still excites me to see that green stone show up. 
It looks good and distinctive and is a big part – and I mean big – of what keeps this occasionally sub-par line feeling like a Collector’s Line.

Value: Forty dollars is too much for these guys. The forty-four dollar day-of price is definitely too much. I know that Matty claims all kinds of things about production numbers and niche collecting and blah, blah, blah, but you will never convince me that it makes sense for a NECA figure to cost less than a Masters of the Universe Classics figure. 

Overall: I ended up pretty happy with these guys. Happy enough that I hope they do another set in different colors. Preferably a mic like I suggested above. I know I just got done bitching about the pricing, but the bottom line is that if you want these figures you are going to pay a premium. And I guess I will. But the black plastic has got to go. Unless, of course, the character is actually black.
3 out of 5

These took a major hit for the black plastic usage and for honestly being kind of dull. They’re not bad, but they’re not super exciting, either. I know I said the yellow was personal choice and not a production flaw, but it didn’t help these guys out any.

If you want them, you can get a set from BigBadToyStore.com. You might want to wait, though, as I would be willing to bet Matty produced extras in anticipation of people wanting army builders. I bet we’ll see these again before the holidays.

-Phantom



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