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Snake Man-At-Arm

Masters of the Universe Classics
by Shocka

I'm going to be honest here and say Masters of the Universe Classics fans are a very, very forgiving bunch. They let a lot slide in exchange for having a collection of modern Masters, and at times Mattel seem willing to push even the most invested, forgiving, committed fans. Consider last year's NYCC reveal of Snake Man-At-Arms, easily the cheapest and most heinous re-use ever in a line that is pretty much built on re-using parts. Essentially the exact same figure as Man-At-Arms except with a snake head, Snake Man-At-Arms was a complete load of bollocks that rightfully made people angry. But in what has become a positive and recurring theme, Mattel did the right thing and listened to the fans' criticisms, taking the figure back to the drawing board for some new tooling and returning with a much better action figure.

Duncan heroically served King Randor throughout their battles with Skeletor and the Snake Men as Eternia's chief war strategist and weapons maker. Exposed to the Serpent's Ring, Duncan was magically transformed by King Hssss into a snake man permanently. Under this evil spell, he used his genius to create great and horrific machines of war for the Snake Men as they battled for control of Eternia. Eventually, Duncan was forced to battle against Clamp Champ, who had since replaced him as Royal Man-At-Arms. In their epic final duel during the Second Ultimate Battleground, Duncan was mortally wounded, but not before momentarily recovering his humanity thanks to a spell cast by his daughter Teela, the new Sorceress of Grayskull.

Normally I'm apathetic when it comes to discussing the specific re-use of parts and new tooling on an action figure (in part because I think the premium we're charged on MOTUC makes the blatant re-use seem like a total freaking scam) but it's worth noting what makes Snake Man-At-Arms different from the original Man-At-Arms figure, beyond the new head and new accessory. The shoulders come from Man-E-Faces, the biceps from Roboto, and the thighs and forearms come from Trap Jaw, with a longer loincloth from Hordak and left boot borrowing Skeletor's greave with Keldor's foot, all of which combine to make the figure look more technological, like the Mo2K Man-At-Arms. This is important, as it highlights one of the great reasons to own this figure aside from making the Snakized version of the character unique from his non-snakey counterpart.

The packaging here is the standard Masters of the Universe Classics blister with the Snake Men sticker on the front drawing attention to the variation. While it's a fine-enough package for dumbass MOC collectors the sculpt partially conceals the awesome snake face, which could have been handled better despite the character design having that big piece underneath/partially concealing the face.

Once you get him out of the package like a sane person, you can admire the newly sculpted freakish snake head, which looks stunning. More than just a simple repaint or a basic resculpt, it's actually the previous MAA's face as if it underwent the transformation as seen in the 2002 cartoon, and it's awesome. He's nasty to look at.

The paint here is excellent, and indeed over the entire figure, which adds things like gold highlights and a stronger brown for the loincloth. By itself it's harder to see the differences between the paint, but putting the original side-by-side with Snakey shows off the extra effort Mattel went to.

This leads into the major bonus with this figure, and that involves transplanting the spare Modern Duncan head from the original Man-At-Arms in place of the new Snake head to get, ta da, 2002-style Man-At-Arms! It's an excellent feature that is arguably better than just having the snake "variant" - it's only missing the 2002 arm cannon accessory, which is going to be available in an upcoming accessory pa(c)k. The actual accessories don't fare so well - Snake Man-At-Arms includes his mace as seen previously with the original, and the Serpent's Ring, the Snake Man artifact that transforms regular characters into Snake Men. It's only the one color, gold, and is kind of cool when wielded by Snake Man-At-Arms but otherwise lackluster. To really make this worthwhile the arm cannon should have been included, but... see the first sentence of the review.

There's not much else to say here. Articulation is the standard excellence for MOTUC, the joints are very stiff/stable and the toy is plenty durable. Getting down to it, I was dreading Snake Man-At-Arms as another useless variant, but in hand I really like him, and I like that fans who prefer the 2002 take on the character can put him together, while fans who just want another member of their Snake Men can have that as well. It's really pleasing that Mattel listened to their fans, and for my money this is a much better character variant than another He-Man. With that said, though, I don't want to see another Snakized version of a major character - the '02 line knew the place of these variants, which was as a limited exclusive, catering specifically to the specialised audience who would want these as well as the diehard MOTU collectors. Inserting them into the sub doesn't benefit anyone except the Matty shareholders. Even if this figure wasn't the disaster we actually thought it was, it's really time Matty started getting the more memorable and unique characters out instead of making variants or obscure characters beloved by people that don't exist (cough Star Sisters cough Fearsome Foes cough).

-- 09/03/12

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