Hey, it’s those Predators I’ve been going nuts about all year long!
Back in the mid-’90s, Kenner Toys created an Aliens toy line, which was awesome and served as my introduction to “there are better toys out there than Ninja Turtles.” It later expanded to include Predators, and went from awesome to super-awesome. One of the first Kenner Predators was Cracked Tusk, a hunting party leader. That toy was my favorite of the whole set, and ended up serving in a whole bunch of play sessions. Later in the toy line’s life, they released a few repaints. Cracked Tusk was re-released in translucent red and named “Lava Planet.” So of course, there were questions – who is this guy? Is he made of lava? Is he using a red cloaking device? Does it matter?
And then, this year, NECA Toys announced a line of Kenner Tribute Predators, including Lava Planet. And here’s his bio:
A descendant of a rare tribe that inhabited the lethal volcanic regions of Yautja Prime. They wear specialized masks and cloaking nets to suppress the high levels of radioactivity. Their invisibility cloaking technology is highly advanced and nearly always active as a protective electromagnetic field against the radiation, though invisible undulations of skin and armor are constantly moving and shifting amongst the fiery red landscape these Predators occupy. Lava clan warriors carry specialized weaponry specfic[sic] for hunting the Vy’drach insectoids of the desert. This is a rite of passage for most common Yautja warriors, but for the Lava clan, it is a way of life.
Well, typo aside (heh heh), it’s pretty cool. So, Lava Planet isn’t a unique Predator, he’s part of a clan from an extremely unhospitable environment. This isn’t unrealistic (“realism” in Predator?), considering that no matter how far into the barren desert or icy tundra we go in our own world, people have somehow moved in and set up shop. So, the Lava tribe uses their cloaking shields to survive in the hostile environment. Occasionally, bits and pieces of their flesh or armor shows through the cloak – ostensibly, that’s to explain why the original’s shoulder cannon didn’t match the rest of him. It also explains why he can look like that when he’s not around volcanoes – the cloak doesn’t make him invisible. It probably masks his heat signature to match the surrounding terrain, though. And that whole thing about Vy’Drach? That was taken straight from the expanded universe, just like the radioactive deserts themselves. So this wasn’t invented out of thin air.
Today I review Lava Planet, with the other two (Hive Wars and Nightstorm) coming next Wednesday and Friday, respectively.
BAHAHAHAHA! I am sorry, I know that writing “Bahaha” is not professional, but I love what they did here. The blister pack is designed to look just like the original Kenner packaging – it’s got the old-fashioned mask, pixellated explosion, and even that green grid pattern on the back! All three figures also come with their own concept artwork, which I would love to see on its own sometime. The half-star is removed because of that typo in Lava Planet’s bio. Look, I know I make my fair share of mistakes on this blog, but when I have edited professionally for actual publishers, I raked over everything with a fine-toothed comb. “Specfic” wouldn’t have made it past me, especially if the whole piece was just one paragraph.
But other than the typo, this is awesome!
NECA Predators all use the same few bodies. Lava Planet is mostly built on the “City Hunter” body, used for all of the Predator 2 characters so far (except for the Elder). And for the most part, he sticks with it – much of his armor is basic to the body, with the Shaman loincloth and the Albino Predator’s right shoulder pad. Interestingly, the pad was made for Lava Planet first, which shows when you consider how much it looks like a scaled-down version of the Kenner original’s (minus the spikes).
As far as new parts go, Lava Planet has a new right forearm with a tube connecting his right gauntlet to his armor, new wrist blades, and a new mask. The mask looks just like the original, which was a metallic red repaint of Cracked Tusk’s. And it was always my favorite mask, just because it looked like an alien creature on its own. NECA scaled it up appropriately and added details, such as some of the moulding around its mandibles or the texture in the lenses. It’s great, and it really, really looks removable – but no, the mask does not come off. My mask has a flaw – a big glob of paint right on the forehead next to his Klingon ridges – but I doubt it’s the same for everybody. I just got a little unlucky.
His new wrist blades are sculpted to match the Kenner original – his blades are wide and flat, more like prongs than slashing weapons. I think the assumption is that a Lava clan Predator uses them to impale, scoop, or lift prey rather than slash, and they look appropriately good for the job. They extend outward a little, suspended on thinner lengths of metal.
Lava Planet’s shoulder cannon is a slight disappointment, as it’s the standard City Hunter plasma caster. Considering that the Kenner figure had a huge rocket launcher on his shoulder, I think they could have swapped out the cannon for a new, larger piece. But it’s ultimately not much of an issue, considering all of the things this figure did right, whether it was from newly-sculpted materials to using old pieces well.
Red. This figure is red. Much like Mattel’s oft-reviled “Spirit of Hordak,” the Lava Planet Predator is cast entirely in translucent red plastic, with some details painted over. His mask and the armor on his right side and legs are metallic red with a black wash, his loincloth is partly painted black, and he has silver apps for his shoulder armor on the left as well as his hair decs. He also has a lot of red and black detailing, matching some of the shifting lava patterns of his armor.
He also has more of those little black and yellow lava paint apps than the original figure, which is fine – NECA could have ignored or left the detail out, but they chose instead to pattern it over his body, legs, and hands. They help sell the concept that it’s a rippling pattern over his cloak.
Of course, you really can’t fully appreciate Lava Planet’s coloration without a good backlight. Try putting him in a window or situating a spotlight directly behind him for the full effect. I especially love how his mask’s lenses are unpainted, creating a light pipe and giving him glowing eyes when lit from behind. Nice!
Lava Planet has standard Predator articulation – a ball-jointed head, hands, and feet, ball-and-socket shoulders, elbows, and hips, double-hinged knees, swivel waist, and articulation for his plasma caster and wrist claws.
His leg articulation is hindered somewhat by the Shaman loincloth, but you can still pose him fairly well despite that. So far, his hips seem more secure than on some other Predators, probably because of the difference in material for translucent plastic. The tube connecting his right arm to his back is made of flexible rubber, and just long enough not to get in the way no matter how you pose him, which is something that more companies should do. His plasma caster, likewise, is on two swivels and has a surprising amount of flexibility.
Every figure in Predators Series 10 comes with something. There are no bare-handed figures here, thankfully. Lava Planet comes with the least – a machete that I assume is the “specfic” weaponry mentioned in his bio. It’s reused from the Elder Predator, and while it’s pretty cool, it isn’t very spectacular. Again, the original Lava Planet had a massive shoulder cannon, so why not that? Or why not sculpt a harpoon that looks like its missiles? Considering that Predators are supposed to hunt Vy’Drach with spears, that would have made sense. I understand that this was probably a budgetary issue, and it’s not bad that it was left out, but it does seem pretty small when compared to the stuff he other Kenner Predators come with.
This figure should run you about $20-ish, give or take a little depending on where you find it. That’s the exact industry standard these days, and a darn sight cheaper than Mattel would charge for the same thing.
THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR:
Nothing is particularly fragile on Lava Planet, as even his wrist blades are pretty thick. Mine has an errant dreadlock that sticks out, but is easy to hide, and the aforementioned flaw on his mask, but I am willing to bet that they aren’t standard flaws.
WHERE TO BUY:
These guys should start showing up any day now at Toys R Us, but for now you can check plenty of on-line dealers, such as Big Bad Toy Store, where I preordered mine.
I’ve been really excited about these toys since the New York Toy Fair waaaaaaay back at the beginning of the year, and I am not disappointed! Lava Planet could have used a different plasma caster, but they never teased anything different from what we got. This is a really cool figure, and it looks great either on its own or with other Predators, including the Kenner original. I can understand why they went with the repaint instead of just making Cracked Tusk, and I think that this is a pretty great toy.
I really think that Predators Series 10 is a huge step in the right direction for toys. These figures didn’t appear in the movies, and they aren’t even technically “accurate” to the last detail – but they are FUN. Remember when toy lines just released random stuff all the time that may or may not have come from the source material? Like how Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles made more toys than the cartoon could keep up with, or how Ghostbusters ran off on its own ghostly tangent? This feels like that, only in a good way. And I think that if NECA can turn this into a trend, it might help bolster the action figure market. Just my thoughts. Anyway, check back next Wednesday for Hive Wars Predator, and Friday for Nightstorm!