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Seventh Kingdom
by yo go re

There are always plenty of really cool exclusives at the summer conventions these days. Stuff worth waiting in line for, stuff worth entering a stupid lottery for, stuff you buy on an impulse simply because it's an exclusive... these goodies cover the spectrum from "must have" to "who cares." Xetheus This year, however, the coolest of the cool was Xetheus, Champion of Mynothecea.

The mighty minotaur known as Xetheus was once called Memmnonn. Memmnonn's dedication to bringing peace to the kingdoms was so great that he freely gave up his life during the splitting of the lands. The sun lord Xemnoss, the most powerful of the elementals, was so moved by the selfless act that he granted Memmnonn immortality and renamed him Xetheus - son of Xemnoss. Xetheus is now a champion whose power is unrivaled by even the greatest heroes of myth and legend. He founded the capital city of Mynothecea in the center of his native kingdom of Animynthus. Xetheus and his mighty Mynothecean minotaur warriors have dedicated themselves to overseeing and defending the land that he has been spared to protect.

The reason that Xetheus was this summer's crowning exclusive and 2006's Toy of the Year was the way he was created: he's the end result of the FANtastic Exclusive process, in which the Four Horsemen created proposals for six original properties, then let fans vote on what they wanted to see. Fans voted on which line they liked, then which of six characters from that line the Horsemen should create. After that it was size, articulation, accessories... from the first step to the final product, this figure is absolutely built by the will of the fan community.

Xetheus was available directly from the Horsemen at this year's SDCC and Wizard World Chicago, but those of us who ordered him online had to wait a little bit before we got ours. Well, it certainly took long enough, but the cow man is finally here. And he's awesome.

The sculpt is superb, of course. The initial glory of McFarlane Toys was built on the backs of the Four Horsemen, so they know a thing or two about slinging clay. There was never any doubt that this guy would look nice, but he's even better than we could have expected. His body is covered with a fine coat of hair, but it gets thicker and furrier around his ankles. Rather than being purely smooth, his horns have a bony texture, and his lips are bare skin. His hooves have all the striations and cracks you'd expect to see on a real cow's foot.

All that detail, and we haven't even discussed his armor, yet. We're talking metal, leather, cloth, string, jewels... the various textures of a stylized fantasy armor, pressing up against one another yet standing apart distinctively. His breastplate is an iconic version of Xemnoss, his sun god, and it's sculpted to look like it has at least five layers stacked together. The back of his armor is thick, cracked leather, and several small shield-style discs hang from his skirt. Great, great detail, all over.

Xetheus is nearly 7½" tall, though he's a cow - he looks to be the same general 6" scale as He-Man figures. Articulation is above average, especially for a first-time effort. Xee has balljointed ankles, double knees, thigh swivels, balljointed hips, swivel waist, hinged torso, balljointed wrists, hinged elbows, bicep swivels, balljointed shoulders and a balljointed neck. One of his hips is a little loose, but not enough to cause any problems - despite being all balljointy from the waist down, he stands securely. Some people have reported that their minotaur won't stand for more than five minutes - I have to wonder what they're doing wrong.

When the Horsemen busted their asses to make the sculpt so excellent, there's no way they were going to skimp on the paint apps. The fact that Xetheus' fur is a sort of Williamsburg blue is a bit odd, but it's still painted well. And if you don't like this color, maybe one of the six variants will grab you. All those tiny segments in the armor are colored distinctly, right down to the silver grommets on the belts and straps. His eyes are red, and his horns fade from black to grey. His armor is golden, with brown and teal inlays. Even his weapons are detailed better than your average figure.

Xetheus is one well-prepared butt-kicker. Not counting the two daggers permanently molded as part of his skirt, he's got three (or four) accessories. First is a huge double-bladed axe that can be split in two to either fit in his hands or serve as separate weapons. what fucking dumbass would think this is a rattle? He's got an ornate two-pronged tool that just looks really neat when he holds it. The final accessory seems to have confused some people. Come on guys, use your imagination: what do you think it is? It may look like a baby's rattle, but look at the head on it - it's the same as the symbol on Xee's chest. It's a totemic representation of Xemnoss! Xee can either hold it in his hand or tuck it in the obvious little loop on his belt.

tiny details! A lot of care and love went into Xetheus, but it's the little details that really make him awesome. His kneepads are distorted Xemoss heads, and the sun god's visage can also be seen hidden on his axe blades. The cow skull on his back holds his weapons, and the spikes on his shoulders are patterned after a bovine's jawbone. Yes, this exclusive was voted on by the fans, but it's the Four Horsemen's visual style and attention to detail that make it truly shine. Xetheus is expensive - most exclusives are - but this time, it feels like you're getting your money's worth when you buy him. For $20, you get a figure with better articulation, sculpt and paint than your average ML figure, which puts him at the top of the current industry standards. The Champion of Mynothecea is still available (for now) at Store Horsemen (ha!), so go grab one while you can, or you'll regret it later. Mooo!

-- 11/25/06

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