Tuesday 2 February 2016

Quick Crappy Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Prahvus & He-Ro II*

You’ll notice that it’s not December, or even January, and I’m doing Quick Crappy Reviews for figures from December, that’s because Digital River sent these items via a tortoise on a world tour.

Buuuut they’re finally bloody here! December’s Masters of the Universe Classics releases took forever to come to some of us dirty Limeys and I was one of that some of us. But that’s all over and all four (yes four) figures that rounded up the Masters of the Universe Classics line proper are now unboxed and posing around my house waiting for me to get off my arse and sort out my shelves to give them a place to pose permanently, Prahvus for instance is standing guard over the CBGBs mug I keep my stray pencils and biros in.

So yes these were the two regular figures for the two Masters of the Universe Classics subscriptions that were offered in 2015 for the month of December, the final two regular figures in the line as it’s now been broken up into two smaller sub-lines/subscriptions: Masters of the Universe Classics: Collector’s Choice and Masters of the Universe Classics 2.0. He-Ro II is the regular figure for the Club Eternia subscription and Prahvus is the regular figure for the Club 200X subscription that has been focusing exclusively on never-before-made characters from the early 2000s Masters of the Universe cartoon, the anime one you probably didn’t like.

Prahvus never actually fought He-Man in that cartoon, instead he appeared in flashbacks where he was tied into the pasts of Stinkor, Sorceress and Sortech appearing in the episodes ‘Out of the Past’ and ‘Of Machines and Men’ but he looked damn cool and was built up as a real badass (and he still had a bigger role than Calix). He was a warlord and conqueror who was a major antagonist during The Great Unrest, a sometimes touched upon era of the 2000s cartoon’s past that many characters (including Man-At-Arms, King Randor, Fisto and Stratos) had fought in. This is his first action figure and I…wasn’t’ sure about it…

He looks good, don’t get me wrong, he looks damn imposing and his huge horns and mix of charcoal and bright blue makes him stand out amongst even the cast of Masters of the Universe and that includes a giant lime green gorilla but something about it bugged me and I’ve been thinking about what it is (on the toilet of course), here’s my findings: it’s all the head’s fault. Some of it is the loss of mass most 200X characters have received to tie them into the overall aesthetic (such as it is) of Masters of the Universe Classics (and allow for more part reuse) that make his head look much bigger in figure form, some of it that he’s been posed, photographed and packaged standing up right when in the cartoon his head sits lower on his neck and he’s usually seen in a more hunched over position. Mostly it’s because the proportions of the face are all just slight off: the horns sit lower on the head on the toy, the ears are longer, the jaw juts out notably further than the brow than it appears to do in the cartoon, the face is larger especially between the cheek bones, ears and jaw while the nose is smaller and sticks out less, the markings on his face and horns don’t match and are all larger and the whole head is longer and divided up slightly differently. It’s a selection of small things that when combined make the head look really off. Some of it can be helped by posing him as I have in these pictures which trick the eyes into thinking he looks more correct than he does because he’s in a pose you can easily find pictures/footage of him in but yeah, the head’s just slightly to cock in lots of little places and it makes him look a little weird. While I’m nitpicking it really bugs me that his loin cloth doesn’t ‘break’ along the lines of its detailing, if it looks as much like chainmail/links as it does then each link should be complete or hanging off where it connects right? There’s no reason why this couldn’t be as it’s not like its using fabric, it’s bugged me since the figure was revealed. There is lots to enjoy though, in fact I’ve become a little bit obsessed with this skull shoulder pad, it’s something of an approximation of the cartoon design (more of the ‘classicizing’) and it does hamper the ball-joint at the shoulder (in fact the ball joint seems to ignore it half the time, though it is attached by a plug to the arm itself) it’s also a little black skull of some unknown beast and I am clearly a stereotype because the Goth-Metal part of me (It’s a fairly large part, including all my wardrobe but not the part that likes Care Bears and McDonaldland characters obviously) is just enamoured with it, his paint apps are also sharp all over, those tattoos of his never blur on mine.

This was supposed to be a joke photo involving Jasmine
from Aladdin but I couldn't find my figure of her, in fact the
only Disney female I COULD find was um... Shenzi... not
quite the same but it's the thought that counts right?

Even though he’s rocking only few new parts (head, cape, right forearm, shins, pants), much less than say Chooblah or Evil Seed, a version of the accessory he actually uses in the cartoon – a glider the stands on – would have been way too expensive and driven up the price (though I’d’ve paid deluxe price for him if he came with it) so he’s been given two new accessories designed by sculptor team The Four Horsemen. His bronze maze is shit-hot and shows how good the Horseman are as designers, looking like a 200X-era weapon that has been redesigned to fit with Masters of the Universe Classics but in fact being designed for Classics itself. He also has a lamp because someone decided he’s a genie now – I think this was former MOTUC brand manager Scott Neitlich but I’m not sure, he might have found it some unpublished material or something – talk about defanging a character. It’s a very nice lamp, and I can see the 200X influences but it’s still a bright gold lamp for a conquering brutal warlord who’s all dark tones and brutality and it jars, so it’s off to the weapons bin forever.

He-Ro II, aka Dare, has a bit more backstory to him. He’s a ‘concept character’, a character who never actually appeared in any released media but was designed for the franchise – Classics has included a few including Vikor, Demo-Man and the Star Sisters and some fans aren’t that fond of them and they are especially not fond of Dare and his nemesis Skeleteen (yes, Skeleteen). The earliest mention of Dare Scott Neitlich found was in a proposal by FILMation for the cartoon that became The New Adventures of He-Man where he would have had the role his father Prince Adam (the He-Man you know) later had in the eventual cartoon (which was made by Jetlag, FILMation no longer being around) and Skeleteen the role his father Skeletor filled. But fans didn’t know this existed until Nietlich told us1, most knew Dare as He-Ro II from the production bible for a proposed show ‘He-Ro: Son of He-Man’ by Lou Schemer Productions (the successor to FILMation) where he was He-Man’s adopted son fighting a returned Skeletor. Scott Neitlich worked the Son of He-Man era (a combination of both proposed ideas) in MOTUC via the mini-comics and back-of-card bios he wrote and there are online fans that just loathe it, more than New Adventures, more than Princess of Power, Son of He-Man has the most vicious hatred towards it2. I personally quite like the Lou Schemer story bible and my LONG experience with comics knows that all ‘children of the main character in the future’ series and concepts are NEVER cannon no matter how popular they are or how long the stick around (Spider-Girl and Batman Beyond for instance) and never take the place of their parent3 and so don’t feel threatened by the concept at all.   

So a lot of fans didn’t want this figure at all, a feeling increased by Neitlich flat-out saying that He-Ro II wouldn’t be released in 2014-2015 (though personally I think he fits the ‘A-List from other media’ criteria pretty well, being the main character of a main ‘faction’ – concept characters)4 and a bunch were going to hate him no matter what, but is he a good figure?  Honestly? He’s an average figure – pretty much everything about him is good but not excellent, he’s well done but not exceptional in any way. I enjoy his new head sculpt, it looks different enough from his old man to make him his own character despite sharing a haircut and honestly I think it’s better than Galactic Protector He-Man's, not having the symmetry issues that head had (it looked like he had a lump on side of his face when viewed front-on) and, I feel, a better realised hair sculpt (it just looks more flowing and, for lack of better term, hair-like). I’m displaying him with his Lou Schiemer Productions harness (which is how he was packaged) and that’s nicely realised, I greatly appreciate the transparent gem in the middle, not just because I like see-thru things but because it makes the harness feel less cheap (look at his new gauntlets to see what I mean about that) and the shoulder pad doesn’t effect his arm articulation at all (though there’s a little bit of leg hindrance from his gun belt). His main problem really is that he’s not one thing or another, these ‘composite designs’ have been a part of Masters of the Universe Classics pretty much since it started and I don’t have an issue with them per-say, they’re often a nice little compromise but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make He-Ro II look a little weird, his two looks (Galactic Protector He-Man repaint and classic He-Man updated for the 1990s) not really meshing as well as say, giving the cartoon/style guide looks of the Princess of Power girls some of the toyline’s added details. And with that I’m sort of out of stuff to say, he’s alright.

So we’ll jump to accessories; He comes with three, two weapons and a repaint of Galactic Protector He-Man’s armour in silver with a few less paint apps, I have no use for this simply because I don’t like the design of this armour, my GP He-Man uses his other armour and He-Ro II will too, but it’s as nicely sculpted and detailed as it was back then. For weapons Dare has a blaster with design elements taken from the Cosmic Key, something another member of his Masters of the Universe, the continually unpopular Mighty Spector also had, making me figure it’s probably Time Agent tech given to him, I like it when accessories hint at a little story like that. His Power Sword isn’t his Power Sword, technically its Oo-Lar’s Power Sword now as it’s based on how Alfredo Alcala drew it in the first mini-comic that came packaged with the original wave of 1980s Masters of the Universe figures5. Neitlich liked to package desirable accessories with possibly less desirable figures to help sell them, I’m down with that and Alcala was a fantastic artist so I’ve no complaints, though I think as the original Power Sword it’s going to go to He-Ro (the first one) and Dare is going to inherit the Thunder Punch He-Man accessories from Lord Masque so that each major incarnation of each canonical Power Sword wielder I have (He-Ro, King Grayskull, He-Man, Snake Armor He-Man, Galactic Protector He-Man, He-Ro II) has their own unique Power Sword design.

Father & Son day at Eternos Palace
And that’s that then, if you’re interested this was a really easy review to write because I’d thought of most of it while waiting for bloody ages to get the figures, in conclusion two good figures but not two exemplary figures, leaving me satisfied but not squeeing. Thanks for reading all.  
1 some fans are sceptical this ‘New Adventures of Dare’ documentation even exists but heman.org member Penny Dreadful has seen pages of it and while I don’t’ trust Scott Neitlich so much, certainly not as much as I’d like, I do trust Penny Dreadful. 
2 problems include Neitlich ‘forcing’ ‘his vision’ on the franchise and fans, the focus the era received in the last three mini-comics, replacing the ‘present’ (Prince Adam, Teela, Man-At-Arms etc), replacing the ‘main’ He-Man (even though the Prince Adam version technically replaced a version), making the ‘main’ He-Man less special, the era having the unpopular characters The Mighty Spector and The Unnamed One, some online fans have even been complaining about how silly using the II suffix is, seemingly unaware that this has been used in comics for a long time and no one in-universe actually says ‘He-Ro Two’ or ‘He-Ro The Second’ and it’s just used in captions and other such things to denote a different person in the costume/using the name and make things easier for the reader – though Ram Man II should be Ram Man III.
3 though long-lost adult children in the present taking over are upsettingly common – see Green Arrow and Wolverine for good examples. 
4 he later explained this as saying that 200X-era Evilseed was originally planned to have had He-Ro II’s slot and would have been released instead if Mattel hadn’t signed off on Club 200X. Though this doesn’t explain why he didn’t choose more popular but equally cost effective characters like Lodar or Vultak nor the more popular and equally thematically appropriate (as a final figure) character King Miro to fill the gap Evil Seed left.     
5 which was in turn based on the correct design for the toy power sword, see here 

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