Life In Plastic: TOY REVIEW: Mantis Alien (NECA Toys)

Twenty years ago, Kenner made an Aliens toyline, based on an abortive idea for a Saturday-morning cartoon, Operation: Alien.  You know, what with the violence and all.  But the toys were neat!  Taking a cue from Alien 3’s dog alien, the toyline asked, “What would Aliens look like from other hosts?”  And thus, you had scorpion, gorilla, bull, snake, mantis, rhino, panther, crab, and spider aliens, to name a few (this isn’t even ackowledging the winged queen, giant face hugger, king alien, and so on).  It was a great line, and  turning point for my personal toy collection as a kid.  Suddely, I had been introduced to hyper-detailed, non-cartoonish monsters.  Yeah, these were my McFarlane, in a way.  And so, NECA had already homaged the Kenner Predator line, and finally followed suit with the Aliens.  The first set of Kenner-tribute Aliens includes the Gorilla Alien, Mantis Alien, and Queen Face Hugger.

I first received the Mantis Alien on Christmas day, 1994. The sun caught the figure, backlighting it, and for the first time ever I said, “wow, this toy is beautiful.”  I’ve still got that figure, and nowadays I spend all my time taking artistic photos of toys.  SO THERE YOU HAVE IT.  The Mantis Alien was part of the second wave of Alien figures.  Although this set reused some parts fo the MAntis and Rhino Aliens, it also included creatures like the Snake Alien or Flying Queen.  And, whether re-used or entirely original, this was when they started getting truly creative with their designs.  The Mantis Alien reused the Gorilla’s torso and arm-crushing gimmick, but everything aside from that was unique – so unique, in fact, that it was easy to miss the re-used bits.  It was a great figure that compounded on the original’s insectile nature, and the shade of translucent green was, honestly, really nice-looking.

The included comic never showed us just what Mantis aliens spawned from, as your average praying mantis is too tiny for a face hugger to work with.  Sure, we could assume giant mantis aliens, but it’s mroe fun to try ot imagine the strange logistics behind ordinary ones.  Still, no complaints, this is a great figure.

PACKAGING: ****

The Kenner Aliens have… well, Kenner-reminiscent packaging!  It looks great, shows off the toy, and is just a fantastic piece of work all around.  The other figures on the back are a hilarious tribute, too!

SCULPT: ****

Unlike the original, the Mantis Alien does not reuse much from the Gorilla Alien – in fact, aside from tiny generic Xeno pieces, they don’t share a thing!  The end result is that the Mantis alien does not have a wide, thick torso, but its flared shoulder tubing gives the illusion of width while llowing it to have that slender, delicate look that a mantis should have.

The Mantis Alien’s arms lack the webbing found on the originals, though in other ways they are pretty much identical.  They fit surprisingly well with general Aliens aesthetics, not seeming at all like something randomly made as a toy.  Its insectile abdomen also really matches the old one, which is jusy a dantastic detail.

The Mantis Alien’s head follows the basic example of the original, but adds depth to everything – what was a mostly-smooth surface before now contains extra details, though the shape is still the same even down to the little flared spikes in the back. It’s sleek, aerodynamic, and looks like a variant from a comic book, video game, or even one of the movies.  Ironically, the figure as a whole also resembles one of the not-quite-Aliens from the Contra video games.

PAINT: ****

The original figure was translucent emerald green with a silver finish, and gold for its teeth.  And guess what?  So’s the new one!  NECA went out of its way to recreate the original paint job, albeit with a few more details – gold for some of its spines as well as some darker metal accents here and there.

Well, natural sunlight can’t recreate the original “pretty emerald” effect of the classic figure, though that’s partly the larger sculpt and partly because of the heavier paint.  It does light up nicely, though, and it just looks fantastic.  It’s a beautiful figure in its own, eerie way!

ARTICULATION: ****

Although the original Mantis Alien got away with six points of articulation (and an action feature), this one is up to current NECA standards – and then some!  At its base, it’s got basic aritculation, but there are plenty of new joints to match its unique body type!

The legs, just as with the original, are sorta grasshoppery (I’d say digitigrade, but he’s obviously not balancing on his toes).  As a result, they’re actually really long when straightened, but designed for him to stand semi-crouched.  Mine came with his feet backwards in the pckae, but it’s obvious which way they should be.  Also, the abdomen does not move in this figure, even though the original had a swivel.

The arms have quite a few extra joints – the lack of webbing is on purpose, to allow more moement.  Each arm moves t the shoulder, elbow, second elbow, wrist, and one of the claws.  You can curl ’em, straighten ’em, grasp, grab, and just have a great ole time!  None of the joints on mine are loose, and the arms can easily be positioned to help the Mantis Alien stand in case his weight is too much for those legs.

 

The Mantis’s inner jaw is set a little higher than might be expected, and the movement is fairly rigid – but it looks good in or out.  His articulation is generally solid, though those legs have to bear a lot of weight while bent, so they may go loose first.  Keep an eye on them!

ACCESSORIES: ****
The original toy did not come with any accessories – they had stopped including face huggers after the original three – but this one has a green chestburster!  It’s taken from the ALiens accessory set, and painted an appropriate color – albeit not translucent – for the Mantis.  It’s amazing how snakelike it can look ingreen, and it is a nifty li’l critter.  There was only one Kenner chestburster, which came with the Queen, and had a Queen-ish head.

As for the comic… why aren’t there scans of it here?  Because I, uh, misplaced it.  Nah, I didn’t bother because scans can be found HERE.  The Mantis Alien comic doesn’t have the worst art, and in fact does a decent job of showing the titular Aliens off fairly well.  Mind you, these comics weren’t works of great literature, and this one was just a stepping stone to the Queen Face Hugger and Rhino Alien comics.  But it has one good panel!.

VALUE: ****

At about $22, you get a figure that would cost twice as much from other manufacturers.

THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR:

He’s pretty heavy thanks to those arms, so make sure his legs can support him – mine needs to be leaned a little bit so his abdomen takes up some of the pressre, but it can be done!

WHERE TO BUY:

They are currently heavily in stock at Toys R Us!

OVERALL: ****

The original Mantis alien was one of my favorite toys ever, so NECA was under a tiny bit of pressure to get it right.  But they did!  Even though it’s not as glowy=green as the original, and takes some creativity to stand stbaly, this figure is one of my absolute favorites to come from NECA.  In the grand scheme of things, the Gorilla Alien is probably a better toy, but it’s damn close.  The Mantis is more than worth your time. It’s harder to photograph than many other toys for some odd reason, but trust me – it looks great in-hand!

NECA’s Aliens offerings in 2016 were outstanding.  it was a university year, of course, but even then, the sheer number of concept art aliens, non-canon variants, and “ultimate” figures was like a fanboy’s dream.  And capping it off with these fantastic pieces has resulted in some of the few toys that absolutely live up to the hype.

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5 responses to “Life In Plastic: TOY REVIEW: Mantis Alien (NECA Toys)

  1. Great article, but please correct; there was never going to be an animated tv show called “Operation: Aliens”. The animation images you see online are from the un-aired commercial, when the line was in its early product marketing & development stages.

    • Yeah? I had heard that it went as far as an initial proposal, but not too much beyond there. Do you have a source?

      • I’ve been digging for any info on “Operation: Aliens” for a few years, and all I can find were wiki’s with speculations. The only hard-proof I have for my belief is an original animation cell from the artist/producer for those images seen online. He stated it was for a television commercial. (True, he himself might be mistaken since it was a long time ago, but the cell itself make reference to “kenner aliens commercial”). Since that’s the only hard-proof of anything relating to “Operation: Aliens”, thats what I go by. You’re not the first or only place where this speculation happens, but again there has yet to be any substantial proof or info of any kind (printed articles, corporate memos, press releases/news, etc.), and it’s been repeated a lot lately.

        • Hey, thanks. That’s good to know – I had assumed that there was more info out there. Probably a corporate memo would be the only thing, really.

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