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The Helm of Xaanm

Seventh Kingdom
by Poe Ghostal

This little piggy went to the market - to crush his enemies, see them driven before him, and hear the lamentations of their sows!

The variants for the first round of the Four Horsemen's FANtastic Exclusive were primarily straight repaints of the main figure, Xetheus, with a few alternate weapons. While the variants had one sculptural change - an articulated jaw - the sculpt was otherwise identical, so when I was able to look over all the variants, I really only felt it necessary to buy one (in my case, the Keeper of the Black Labyrinth).

But for the 2007 FANtastic Exclusive, the 4H went another route and offered some seriously awesome variations. While the main figure, Ramathorr, was an elephant, the other figures featured alternate head sculpts, including a rhinocerous, a hippopotamus, a warthog, a bizarre mutant, and several alternate elephant heads.

Since I already had Ramathorr, I wanted to choose a variant that looked different enough from him that it wouldn't be an obvious repaint. While I found the rhinoceros most appealing, his gray paint scheme and armor were too similar in color and shape to Ramathorr. So I went with the Helm of Xaanm (warthog), whose brown color and armor ornamentation were significantly different than ol' Rammy.

With a snort and a piercing battle cry that shakes the very foundations of Animynthus, in charges Ramathorr's master of fighting dirty - The Helm of Xaanm!

As always, sculpting is one area where the Four Horsemen never disappoint, so I'll just pick out two details I particularly appreciate: the rough texture of Xaanm's skin (more fitting to an elephant than a rhino or warthog, but it still looks good) and the tiny chainmail links on the front of his battle-skirt (there's probably a better name for that particular article of clothing, but right now my addled brain can't come up with it - and I'm feeling too lazy to search).

The interesting thing about Xaanm's sculpt - and this applies to all the variants, except for the mutants - is that his head is very clearly a lifelike reproduction of a real warthog head. If you were to pop it off the body, what you'd have is an anatomically accurate warthog head. While the sculpting of the head itself is amazing, there's a certain visual disparity between the outlandish, fantasy-warrior sculpt of the body and the Discovery Channel-like realism of the head. This doesn't apply as much to Ramathorr, whose head is heavily ornamented, giving him a more unique look than his animal brethren. Whether or not you think the head works is a matter of personal preference; while I would have preferred some more distinctive details on Xaanm's head (such as gold caps on his tusks, perhaps), I've gotten used to his look.

The paint applications are very good - easily specialty market level, equal to anything we've seen from NECA and perhaps even McFarlane in his glory days. I'd say the paint work on Xaanm is even a bit better than my Ramathorr. There's some nice white wash on the fur of his cheeks and ears, and again, the painted details on the chainmail is impressive. There isn't much slop on the figure, if any.

While I've often voiced my dislike of so-called "inaction figures" - figures with little or no articulation, stuck in pre-posed positions - I don't fall on the side of "too much articulation is never enough," either. Many Marvel Legends toys end up looking a bit anatomically awkward due to their excessive articulation (that said, I do wish we could get at least one Batman figure with double-jointed knees and elbows). On a figure as large as Xaanm, however, articulation can become a problem.

Like Ramathorr, Xaanm has a balljointed neck, balljointed shoulders, hips and wrists, a giant balljoint in the torso, hinged knees and elbows, and swivel biceps and waist. His ankles are hinged and include an "ankle tilt" joint, allowing both feet to remain flush with the floor when the legs are spread wide apart; and here we run into some problems.

Putting aside the QC issues that are unrelated to the design of the figure (such as loose joints), it was a mistake to give Xaanm and the other FE07 figures such complicated ankle articulation. Xaanm is so heavy, you have to balance him perfectly or he will begin to lean forward or back on his ankles, eventually toppling over. And even when you get the hinges balanced properly, the weight of the figure will slowly drive the ankles farther apart due to the ankle tilt articulation.

If Xaanm had been rotocast - or at least, his torso had been - he probably would have been light enough that the ankle articulation wouldn't have caused a problem. But he's so solid and massive, he just can't stand excessive posing without the ankles weakening. My Ramathorr basically can't stand anymore without a doll stand; Xaanm can stand, but only because I haven't moved his legs or feet since I opened him. The Horsemen tried to fix the issue in the second production run by adding detents to the hinged joints, but they don't seem to have worked consistently across the board (it seems to depend on how well the figure was put together, how tight the joints are). If the Horsemen do any similarly large figures in the future, I recommend either making them rotocast or fixing the feet, a la Mezco's Hellboy figures.

Finally, there are the weapons. While Ramathorr comes with three unique weapons - two big swords and the titanic buster sword - most of the variants feature Frankenstein-​ized versions of weapons from both Ramathorr and the Xetheus variants. Xaanm comes with the two halves of the spear that came with the minotaurs; however, the handle of the spear is topped by an axe, whereas the pointy end has the handle of one of Ramathorr's smaller swords.

I ended up giving Xaanm the two swords from Ramathorr, since they make for a nice parallel to his tusks (particularly since the ends of the blades curve upward). I then took apart the weapons Xaanm came with and glued the sword-handle to the axe-head, thereby creating a hand-axe that looks pretty damn cool in the mitt of my Keeper fo the Black Labyrinth.

-- 06/15/08


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