Predator (Dark Horse Comics): Ultimate Ahab by NECA

It’s been a few weeks since I opened some NECA goodies, so let’s remedy that on this fine Friday by plunging into their Predator pool and pulling out something new! I’ve still got two of the three figures from Series 18 to look at, but I think I’m going to set those aside and instead open up another of their Ultimate Series, and one that’s been sitting around for way too long. Let’s check out Ultimate Ahab!

Pulled from the pages of Dark Horse’s Predator comics, Ahab is an Elder Predator with a bit of an obsession over hunting Engineers (as in Space Jockies not people who drive trains or design bridges!) and oh my, what a great choice he is for the Ultimate Series treatment. As always, the packaging here consists of a window box with a front flap covering the window. It’s got plenty of pictures of the figure as well as some kick-ass artwork, and everything is collector friendly. The fact that these are some of the few action figure packages that I actually keep should speak volumes about how much I dig them, but saving the boxes also comes in handy to keep all those extra goodies! They don’t call these Ultimate for nothing!

After the uniquely crazy look of Broken Tusk, Ahab is kind of a return to basics, or at least a much simpler and streamlined outfit. He’s got the usual net-motif sculpted into his torso and legs, as well as armor on his lower legs, forearms, shoulders, and the upper left part of his chest. The outfit is rounded out with a simple belt, thigh armor, partially covered by sculpted fur, and an alien skull hanging around his neck. He also features a stylish crimson cape, which is made of an exceptionally nice material and hangs down just a bit below his waistline. Obviously, the comics and other associated Predator fiction has given us a wide array of different looking Predator outfits, and while I dig the more distinctive ones, it’s also refreshing to get back to basics.

The paintwork is excellent and the figure exhibits all the usual flourishes I’m used to seeing on these guys. Ahab’s Yautja flesh varies from a sickly pale yellow to orange, and he’s got several natural markings on his skin, particularly at the inner thighs and shoulders. The armor isn’t as heavily weathered on this guy as some of my other Preds, but it has just the right amount to make it look lived in and well used. There’s also a bit of gradient brown on the sculpted fur patches.

The exploits of Ahab’s hunts are written all over his face. His right eye is missing and flesh has grown over the socket. He’s also missing his right upper mandible, and there are some scars interrupting the spotting on the top of his head. But he’s still a handsome devil and I will never stop being impressed by the work NECA puts into the Predator dreadlocks, with each one separately sculpted. And while it’s not actually part of his head, now seems as good a time as any to talk about the hose that connects the shoulder armor to the piece of chest armor. With my past Preds, articulating the arm would cause this to pop out of the hole on the chest armor. That’s fine, because otherwise it would severely limit that limb’s articulation. Unfortunately, this one appears to be glued in, because instead of simply popping out, the tab broke off in the hole. I may glue it, I may leave it out, or I may just snip it off entirely.

Instead of a swappable head, Ahab actually comes with a wearable mask. This is held on mostly by friction, but it fits pretty well and leaves his mandibles exposed. The interior also features some great detail, and I love that NECA bothered to paint the interior of the eyes red.

Ahab’s arm bracers conceal the usual Predator gadgets. The left arm has his flip up computer and his right arm houses his twin extending blades. You can also swap this piece out for one with triple blades, which is a damn cool bonus. And if you don’t want either sets of cutlery getting in the way, you can remove them and attach the bracer piece to have them retracted all the way in.

Ahab also comes with a satisfying number of weapons, the first of which is his shoulder-mounted plasma-caster. If you’re familiar with NECA’s Predator figures, than you’re familiar with this piece. It clips onto the shoulder and features the same level of detail in the sculpt and paint finish as the rest of Ahab’s armor, blending in perfectly. The caster itself is positioned on an articulated arm allowing it to target his pray. I love the look of these as display pieces, but they tend to get in the way of the head articulation, so I tend to use them for regular display, but not when I’m playing around with the figure.

Next up is his spear. It’s got a beautifully sculpted blade with serrated hooks trailing down the top of the shaft. The middle is sculpted with a thick grip and the far end terminates into a sharp point. Ahab comes with a pair of accessory holding hands, which allows him to wield this in one or both hands. Although it should be noted that it’s a delicate piece, and some care should be taken when getting it into his fingers. NECA also included a small clip that can be attached to his back to hold the spear, but I doubt I’ll use it since the cape gets in the way.

The Smart Disc is an accessory we’ve seen before and it’s always a welcome addition. It’s painted gold and features some great sculpted detail, along with finger holes to work with one of the right hands. The only downside here is that he doesn’t have a place to store it when he’s not using it.

And I saved my favorite weapon for last, and that’s the Engineer rifle. The design of this weapon is just so damn cool and it brilliantly reflects the HR Giger techno-organic motif seen in the Engineer’s spaceship. The way it coils around it looks like some kind of worm-like creature is wrapping around Ahab’s arm. I’d love to get another one of these to give to one of my Engineer figures, but I’m sure as hell not going to take this one away from Ahab.

The final accessory is the skull and spinal column of an Engineer. It’s a beautiful, albeit grim, sculpt and features a gray painted finish.

I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of adding new Predators to my collection, and Ahab here is yet another great example of why. The team at NECA clearly loves these alien hunters so much, and that comes out in all the beautiful details and wonderful craftsmanship and bevy of accessories. It’s hard for me to choose favorites here, but Ahab surely takes a place right beside the Jungle and City Hunters as my top Predators. And best of all, since I never owned the original NECA release of Ahab, I didn’t even have to double-dip to get this Ultimate edition.

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Predator (Dark Horse Comics): Broken Tusk by NECA

As many of you know, I’m a huge fan and supporter of NECA Toys, but that hasn’t always been easy. Distributors in my neck of the woods have been few and far between, and that’s why I’m absolutely thrilled over a new partnership that has landed NECA’s product in Target Stores. And while I understand that the distribution and merchandising has had a shaky start, my local Target now has more NECA product than I’ve ever seen in one place. I mean, if I didn’t already own them, I could go in there tomorrow and pick up nearly every one of the Ultimate Freddy and Jason figures, and some of those have been off the market for a while. And the new stuff has been showing up right on time, which means that I no longer have to pay crazy prices and shipping online. And so, I walked out of Target last week with two new Ultimate Xenomorphs and a couple of Predators. And today I’m going to open one of the Preds…

For a while, I tried to just stick with the Ultimate releases when it comes to Predators, but my willpower ain’t so great and so I’ve been buying more and more of these regular releases. Of course, Broken Tusk is from the Dark Horse comic Alien Vs Predator and the one who Blooded the human warrior Machiko, who is also in this wave and on my pile to open and review. The packaging here is a simple card and giant bubble, which lets you get a great look at the figure inside, but sadly is not collector friendly. Nonetheless, there’s some colorful artwork, an insert that boasts over 25 points of articulation, and a separate tray behind the figure that houses the accessories. Ah, but shredding the packaging is a small price to pay to get this beauty out.

No matter how many of NECA’s Preds I open, they still always manage to impress me. While Broken Tusk is pulled from the Dark Horse comic, I’m happy to say that the figure is not presented in the comic-paint-style that NECA sometimes releases, but rather one that will fit in with the bulk of my other Preds. This figure also represents what is easily the most unique looking Pred in my collection so far and the amount of detail in this sculpt once again proves just how much passion NECA has for these characters. Broken Tusk sports some unusual heavy armor, much of which looks like it’s been fashioned from crustacean shells. These green, interlocking horned plates cover his upper arms, hips and thighs, while similarly colored sleeves of armor protect his knees and lower legs. Even his familiar wrist bracers are painted green to match. He also sports a carapace of some sort as a backpack.

Perhaps the coolest element of his armor is the chest piece, which is sculpted out of softer plastic and actually worn by the figure. This includes the addition of a more mechanical element, with various boxes, pouches and vents interconnected with wires and tubing. And in the middle of it is a true showpiece of a trophy: A Xenomorph’s face! The paint here includes some silver spray on the tubes and the black and blue coloring of the Alien with it’s silver teeth and the rather distinctive (and I think just a bit ludicrous) lightning bolt emblem painted onto the Xeno’s forehead. Of course, under all that armor, you get the usual yellow skinned Yautja anatomy with some natural brown and orange coloring and the sculpted body net, which in this case is green!

Broken Tusk features a masked head sculpt, and sadly the mask is not removable, nor do you get an unmasked head. Maybe NECA is saving that for the Ultimate treatment later on. Either way, he features the usual dreadlocks, which are individually sculpted, and the smooth contoured mask with a nice gold painted finish. There’s a wash on the mask to give it a bit of a weathered look, and he has his lightning symbol outlined on his forehead.

As you might expect, Broken Tusk has a few tricks up his sleeves, or rather up his arm bracers. The right arm features the usual nasty-looking jagged twin blades, which can extend and retract, while the left bracer contains the flip-up computer. I’ve found that a few of my Preds have rather fragile hinges on their arm computers, but the ones on this one are rock solid.

Broken Tusk comes with a couple of weapons, the first of which is the Yautja Burner, which he wields in place of a standard shoulder-mounted plasmacaster. It’s a somewhat compact hand-held weapon with a green and silver deco to match the armor. It also features a soft plastic carry-strap so he can sling it over his shoulder. The figure’s left hand is sculpted to work with the gun and he can hold it quite well.

The other weapon is this amazing pole-arm, which features a spear-head on one end and something more akin to a glaive blade on the other. Both are painted silver and have orange blood splattered on them. Broken Tusk’s right hand is sculpted in a tight grip to let him hold the spear without it slipping, although the right hand can be used so he can wield it with both hands.

It can also be pulled apart to make up two weapons. I’m not sure if this was done just so that it could comfortably fit in the packaging, or so it could intentionally be separated to form two weapons, but I prefer to think it’s the later.

Just one look at this magnificent bastard hanging on the peg, and I knew that I had to have him, not to mention the other figures in this wave. Broken Tusk is a fine addition to my humble but growing collection of Predators and every time I open one of these beauties I find myself anxious to get more. The attention to detail in the sculpt is mind-blowing, and Broken Tusk makes for a formidable presence on any display shelf. Alas, I was only able to pick up him and Machiko on my last trip, so I’m still hunting Hornhead. Although a subsequent trip netted me the Ultimate version of Ahab, so you can expect to see a lot of Predator loving here in the week’s ahead.

Predator (Dark Horse Comics) by NECA

The Predator hit the theaters a couple of weeks back like a wet splat. I saw it on opening night and I really enjoyed it, but I could easily see why a lot of people didn’t. Even if the newest film in the franchise didn’t feel like it was edited in a blender, let’s face it, the original Predator is damn near a perfect film and I hold the second in very high regards, but everything after that has sucked hard. Maybe my expectations were low, but at least I had fun seeing this one. But forget about the movie, today I’m talking comics. Sure, I will be reviewing some Predator figures from the new movie, but in the meantime, I picked up today’s figure from a Twitter buddy and thought I’d have a look at him before the new ones start rolling in.

The box has seen better days, but it’s still a thing of beauty. Like a forerunner to NECA’s Ultimate Series, this Predator comes in a colorful and collector friendly box with the front panel recreating the brilliant cover art from The Concrete Jungle, Issue #1. On cold dark nights, I still have nightmares about the day I was moving out of state and I gave a huge box of comics to my brother’s girlfriend’s brother and this issue was in it. I spring awake and then scream because only then do I realize it really happened and wasn’t just a horrific dream. Oh well… live and learn. In addition to the cover art, the box also has some comic panels from the Dark Horse comic series.

NECA has created quite a little niche by creatively repainting their figures to reproduce their look in both comics and video games, and that’s exactly what we’re looking at here. I don’t own all of NECA’s Predators (far from it!), but I think I’d be safe in saying that the majority of the parts and sculpting on figure has been used before. The figure’s deco makes brilliant use of some blues and reds to simulate the coloring of the cover, along with some silver paint hits to further simulate the art. It not only works well as a recreation, but I think the colors look particularly striking on the figure alongside the Yautja’s yellow skin. Additional black paint is used to pick out some of the details in the leg and arm armor.

The back of the figure is bathed in a deep crimson shadow with black wash, save for that one blot of blue paint that landed on my figure’s left leg. The back is intended to soak up the shadows from the comic cover’s mostly red field, which makes this a figure that is best viewed from the front or a front-focused angle, in order to make the comic inspired paint effect really work.

That’s not to say that this figure is all about the paint job, because the sculpt is quite spectacular too. What can I say? NECA knows their away around Predators and their gear and here it really shows. The attention to detail on the arm bracers is particularly well done, although the left arm computer doesn’t actually open on this figure like it does on a lot of their regular Preds. The right arm bracer also has a bunch of sculpted detail and the blades will extend and retract. He has a sculpted leather belt, complete with detailed stitching and he also has a pair of bone trophies on strings that crisscross his chest. The plasma-caster on his shoulder is mounted on an articulated arm and the whole assembly is removable. Add to that the sculpted body net and the great texturing on his skin and you’ve got a figure that is clearly a labor of love.

Articulation here is standard NECA, which means a whole lot of of rotating hinges. With that being said, this particular Predator isn’t the most fun figure to pose. Most of the articulation points don’t offer a whole lot of range and he has tiny hoses in his shoulder and left arm that will pull out of their sockets at the hint of re-posing. Plus, as always, the plasma-caster is a tight fit on that shoulder and moving the head will frequently knock it off. Nonetheless, I was still able to get some cool poses out of him for the shelf.

Most of my Predators from NECA are of the Ultimate variety, so I’m used to getting a fair number of accessories with them. This Dark Horse Pred only comes with a couple. In addition to the plasma-caster, you get his staff, which is a grizzly piece of work. The top of the staff is capped off with a rotting skull and the attached spine snaking down around the shaft. There are some additional bones and finery attached as well. His left hand is capable of holding it, but the grip is a little loose.

In the past, I haven’t been an avid collector of NECA’s comic and video game repaints, but I mainly picked up this Predator because I have the Dutch and Linn two-pack from the Alien Vs Predator arcade game on pre-order and wanted a similarly painted Predator to go with them. With that having been said, I think I’m enough in love with this ugly motherf’er to motivate me to hunt down some more. And unlike a lot of NECA’s regular figures, the video game and comic releases don’t seem to get too pricey on the aftermarket. Hopefully, the next time a NECA Predator crosses my desk, it’ll be the fugitive from the new film.

Star Wars Black (Legends): Jaina Solo by Hasbro

Folks, I’m kind of at a crossroads with the 6-inch Star Wars Black Series and today’s review is a great example of why. For the most part, this line hasn’t been living up to my expectations, at least not consistently, and I’m constantly considering whether I really need to keep collecting it. At the same time, there are enough genuinely good figures tossed in at regular intervals to make me want to stick around. Either way, I was genuinely excited to hear that Jaina Solo was getting a release, especially since she’s been wiped clean by Disney’s purge of most of the Expanded Universe. I’m actually quite surprised she would get a release at all, since the current Trilogy has replaced Han and Leia’s Expanded Universe kids with Ben Solo, and acknowledging her existence is somewhat problematic and potentially confusing to some of the younger fans out there.

And yet here she is! Because in the end it’s all about finding new ways to bring in more Republic Credits, right? And I guess if that means merchandising those characters that now never were, so be it. Case in point, by slapping the name “Legends” in parenthesis on the package characters like Jaina Solo can live again, even if she is no longer canon. Of course, Jaina’s appearance is mostly thanks to the results of a Fan Poll a while back. Prior to that one, a previous Poll gave us Darth Revan, which granted is also an Expanded Universe character, but seeing as how he’s from The Old Republic, there’s no reason to presume he can’t still have existed in the current Star Wars canon. Sheesh, this is all so complicated, let’s just look at the figure.

OK, so first off, is this really supposed to be her Stealth-X suit? If that’s the case it’s pretty far off the mark, at least going on what I remember from the Dark Horse comic. Then again, I suppose there’s no definitive design for Hasbro to work off of. Maybe I’m just a little bitter because I wish she was wearing just a regular orange X-Wing pilot suit. With all that having been said, the suit is nicely detailed with the ribbed vest, control box on the chest, leg straps, and all the trappings of your typical Star Wars Universe flight suit. She also has a smuggler-style belt with a low slung holster, just the kind that dear old Dad used to wear. There’s some copper paint on the straps for the chest box, but the underlying black suit is devoid of almost all other color. It only has some orange piping, which we’ll be able to see more clearly in a bit, and  you get a little extra gloss in the black boots and gloves.

Other than choice of suit, my biggest issue with this figure is the proportions, specifically in those arms. Why are the elbow joints placed so low? Why are her biceps so long? At first, I thought it was an optical illusion from the suit sculpt, but the more I look at it, the more I realize that someone at Hasbro doesn’t fully understand human anatomy, because the ratio of forearm to bicep on this figure is seriously askew and it really looks strange to me.

The portrait is also a sticking point for me. I don’t think the sculpt is bad. It’s a little soft, but they did get a little personality in there with her smirk, a little something else she picked up from Dad. I also can see a little of her Mom in her cheeks. The hair is sculpted pretty well too, with a hair band forming a pony tail at the back. I think it’s the paint here that really musses things up. Besides being the usual bare-minimum-basic paint job that Hasbro has been giving us with the human portraits, the eyes on mine just look terrible. They’re uneven, and they’re perpetually looking up. I’ve seen a lot of those pictures around the Net of people who do some amazing paint work on these portraits, but Jaina here doesn’t need amazing to be an improvement, just competent would do.

Luckily, Jaina comes with a helmet to help cover up the amateur hour paint-job. Again, the paint on this seems way off from what I remember in the comics. That one was sleeker and had little in the way of colored markings or detail. This one looks more like a Resistance helmet from the current Trilogy. But with that having been said, the paintwork on it is pretty good and I like how worn and weathered it looks. The visor could have been a little cleaner, but hey, all the better to hide her eyes.

What’s cool about this figure is that the flight gear is easily removable and under it you get an outfit that could pass as just her regular space-adventure garb. Here’s where you can see more of the orange piping on her top, as well as a thin belt with silver belt buckle hiding behind her gunbelt. The gunbelt features some nice detail on the pouches and even some silver paint for the button snaps. The holster fits her blaster quite well, and she also has a hook to hang her lightsaber from.

I’m not sure if the blaster is new or not, but it looks a lot like the standard DL-44 we’ve seen a few times in this series. It features good sculpted detail and Jaina’s right hand is sculpted with a trigger finger and holds it really well.

Her lightsaber hilt is quite unique and comes with a detachable purple blade. It even has a little purple paint on the side of the hilt, making it all the more distinctive. She can hold it either hand or wield it two-handed if you prefer.

The articulation here is pretty typical for Hasbro’s SWB ladies, with just one big surprise. The arms feature rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists, but there are no bicep swivels. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, have double hinges in the knees, hinges and rockers, in the ankles, and swivels in the thighs. The torso features a ball joint under the chest, and here’s the big surprise… an additional ab crunch hinge just above the waist. Finally, the neck is both ball jointed and hinged.

Make no mistake, there’s some great stuff to be found in this figure, and I was pleasantly surprised at how versatile she is with the removable flight gear. But the portraits in this line continue to disappoint me, and let’s face it, this one wasn’t even based on any specific likeness, but rather a comic character at best, or a description in a book. Toss in the bizarre arm proportions and we’ve got some serious problems for a $20 figure in a line for collectors. And yes, I still wish they released Jaina in her regular orange flight suit, but that last bit is just my personal preference. I probably have five or six SWB figures that I still have to review, and as I get around to reviewing them, I’m going to really be weighing the merits of staying in this line, or maybe just being a hell of a lot pickier about the figures that I buy from it.