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Ultimate Shaman Predator

Predator 2
by yo go re

As you read this bio, ask yourself: was NECA aware of Prey when they wrote it, or were they kicking themselves when that movie's plot was revealed?

One of the oldest living Predators, Shaman is no stranger to Earth. In mid-19th century North America, he hunted the strongest warriors of indigenous human tribes with only primitive handmade weapons. The mysterious skull-faced apparition they saw became known in some Native American folklore as "wechuge," or "man-eating demon" because he would devour his prey to absorb their spirit and strengh, and fashion their bones into new weapons for the next kill. Shaman began as an apprentice of the ancient Yautja mystical beliefs, and his dark presence and obsession with the macabre was disturbing even to other Yautja. But in his later years, he found his place as a spiritual leader with the Lost Tribe, by which time he'd developed seemingly clairvoyant abilities helping to guide and advise the younger hunters.

So, you may not notice at first, but the box art for Shaman does not fit with the previous Ultimate Lost Predator releases. For whatever reason, Tristan Jones is not doing the art for the last few figures, with the job being instead given over to Michael Montenat. Fittingly, this one shows Shaman dancing among a pile of skulls - both human and Xenomorph - in front of a bonfire benath a star-filled sky. It's fine, though not as cool as all the ones of Losties fighting Flying Queens or Engineers or whatever other creations from the wider AvP universe. The color is also a lot more vibrant and comicbooky.

When these Ultimates were released, Shaman was the one I was most looking forward to. The trult blessed out there will recall that my original Shaman was messed up, and I couldn't get a replacement. So hey, a new shot at him? Yes, please! I'm pleased to report that this time, he dreads are as long and as straight as they're meant to be, so he actually does look different from the rest of the tribe now. This head is the same the first figure had, though this time the dots on the forehead are painted in a straight line, rather than wavy.

And of course, as is the style of this line, Shaman gets an alternate masked head for the first time ever. That's these figures' trick: masks for the unmasked characters, unmasks for the masked characters. It wouldn't do to have a hippie like this just wearing one of the usual industrial steel head-buckets, so his is bone, some sort of alien creature with a snout and fangs and a scalp like a pachycephalosaurus. Or maybe two different creatures he's fit together, since the color changes between segments. It really does look cool, and suits the character perfectly.

Doing the Shaman properly would have required an entirely new body - remember, that suit didn't have the netting on it, while all the toys have it as part of the mold - but this is a "what if" world where things have progressed beyond what we see in the movie, so that part can be forgiven. Besides, the important details are right, like the lack of metal gauntlets on the forearms, and the various bags and pouches hanging from his belt. Besides, one of his new accessories renders the bofy-fishnets moot, anyway: since he's a religious leader, he gets robes! A thick softgoods shawl that can drape over his body, covering him all the way down to the knees. It's a bit rough and tattered, which makes more sense than a pristine version would.

Predator articulation has improved since 2011, so this Shaman moves better than the last one. A lot of the joints are the same, clearly, but now we get things like a chest joint and double-hinged elbows. Really all the Lost Predators share the same basic body with different pieces of armor added as needed, so if you have one, you know how they all move. The wrists are swivel/hinged these days, rather than tiny balljoints, so we get the usual complement of extra hands posed to hold various kinds of accessories. Plus, there's a posing wire in the cape; several, in fact! Down both sides in the front and back, along the shoulders, and even a triangle around the neck hole. You can get this into whatever shape you want!

The figure includes open and closed versions of the Predator Smart Disc, which isn't great: the original costume had the disc holster on the leg, then a pouch hanging over it; NECA sculpted the belt as one solid piece (reusing the original mold for it on this update), meaning the holster is inaccessible. So why waste the plastic giving us two loose ones? It's like the inertia of giving every other Lostie a set just carried them straight through on this one. Leave those out and make up something different.

Fortunately, that isn't all he gets. There's the same staff he carried before, with a tip made from normal Predator wrist blades and bones danging from the top, but also a bloody ceremonial dagger and an axe seemingly made from a human skull and spinal column. Wow! Like many of the figures, Shaman gets a human skull of his own, though this one has had blood poured all over it in some strange ceremony. That's distinctive!

NECA really found a way to update the Shaman and yet stay perfectly in-keeping with the characterization his name implies. It would have been extra cool if they'd redone that skinned body from the Predator Accessory Pack, but that probably would have gotten them in trouble trying to convince stores to carry that on their shelves.

-- 03/19/23

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