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Weyland-Yutani Commando

by Monkey Boy

Alien 3 was a largely forgettable movie. Its most iconic elements were its quadrupedal monster and its bald Ripley. NECA's latest wave of Aliens figures gives us the latter, as well as a repaint of the former, but also throws an oddball into the mix: the Weyland-Yutani Commando.

Seen very briefly at the end of the film, the WY Commando is something most casual viewers probably instantly forgot about or never really noticed in the first place. But NECA is anything but casual. They've given us a WY Commando figure chock full of detail, to the point where I'd bet money they spent far more time on this figure than the film crew did actually designing the commando uniforms.

The WY Commando is a very funky design. Like the Lost Tribe from Predator 2, it was only meant to be on screen for a few moments, and thus looks somewhat haphazard and thrown together. The filmmakers of the 1990s could never have anticipated that the toymakers of the 2010s would be poring over every screenshot on the hi-def Blu-ray release of their films to make figures of the most obscure characters, but here we are.

This guy's design not only looks pretty slapdash, but almost seems like it belongs in a different film altogether. He very much seems like a cold weather trooper: He (or she! No way to tell really) is wearing a heavily padded, insulated outfit, almost fully enclosed with very little skin showing, with a wide fur collar and a heavy backpack with tubing that looks like some kind of temperature regulation system. The helmet also features eyewear reminiscent of DC's Captain Cold, with slit eye holes that serve to mitigate glare and prevent "snow blindness" in extremely cold climates. In the real world, these snow goggles are made by Eskimos in the Arctic, out of driftwood, bone, caribou antlers or walrus tusks.

All of these design cues heavily point to a trooper that would feel more at home on Hoth or Starkiller Base than on Fiorina 161. Though I suppose it's possible the surface of "Fury" 161 was at the colder end of its temperature extremes when the USS Patna arrived, Michael Bishop seemed content to endure the weather with just a scarf and a trenchcoat.

Nonetheless, the figure is a very faithful recreation to what we see on-screen, though we see very little of it in the film. Credit to NECA for finding enough solid references to actually make such a thorough rendition. In addition to all the previously mentioned elements, there are some neat details in the helmet, including the weird half-metal-plating/half-football-helmet-basket-facemask thing going on in front. While the helmet is not removable, underneath is a nearly fully sculpted face and head. The eyes behind the removable goggles are fully detailed, and there's hair and even ears viewable from the back. The lower half of the face, behind the facemask, is covered in wrappings (again with the cold motif).

Befitting a Snowtrooper, the WY Commando is painted up in mostly whites and light browns. There's a lot of variation to keep it from being completely bland, and there's just the right amount of weathering to bring out the detail. There are silver elements as well, like the helmet, the maybe-grenades on the front of the jacket, the boots, the left glove, and various buckles and knobs throughout the costume.

The paintjob is well done but deceptively simple, and the real top-notch work is in an area very few people will even bother to look: behind the helmet. The hair, eyes, and eyebrows are all painted with precision, despite being so deep set that they're hard to even see under the headgear. Well done!

Despite the bulkiness of the outfit, the WY Commando moves pretty well. We get a balljointed neck, peg and hinge shoulders, elbows, hips and knees, balljointed wrists and ankles, and peg waist and thighs. This allows for some nice variation in posing, and the figure can even hold his included rifle in both hands.

There's also articulation on the hoses that are affixed to the backpack. There's a peg joint where each hose connects to the pack, and another peg right before the other end to allow you to position it naturally along the torso. Based on the references I was able to find (in the excellent resource Alien: The Archive by Titan Books) the correct placement for the tubes is on the crotch piece, just above the legs, but it's nice that you can move them so as not to inhibit articulation.

In addition to being an entirely new sculpt, the commando also gets a bunch of accessories. The first is familiar: the M41A pulse rifle that became so iconic in Aliens. This is more or less the same gun that came with NECA's Hicks and Hudson figures, but this time it lacks the shoulder strap and is painted completely in black. It actually appears to be a new or at least retooled sculpt, with very minor differences in the stock and carry handle, which is surprising.

Also surprising is the next accessory: a wicked-looking combat knife. It's not something you'd remember from the film necessarily, but I was able to find a single on set photo that revealed this type of knife tucked into the shinguard of one of the commandoes. Now that's attention to detail! You can try to cram the knife into his open left hand if you want, but it fits much better in a small gap in the leg padding - just like in the movie!

There are also the aforementioned snow goggles. Rather than being on a hinge that allows them to open and close, there are two sets of goggles that can be plugged into the facemask: one raised, and one lowered. I'm not sure why NECA went this route, but they're easy enough to switch. I personally prefer the raised set, since it lets you see all the cool facial detail under the helmet.

The final accessory is pretty unique. It's a set of decals. Not stickers, but actual decals: the water transfer kind that typically come with plastic model kits. Get the sheet thoroughly wet, then carefully slide the decals into place on the figure, and they'll stick when dry. The sheet includes four names, two red number "10"s, and two sets of red chevron motifs. I know "Animal" and "Boss" are actual names from the film, displayed on the rear of the commandos' helmets, but I believe the other two, "Cruncher" and "Hunter" were made up by NECA in-house.

The chevrons, based on screencaps, appear to go on either side of Animal's name, but I'm not 100% sure on the 10's. Like I said, it's really hard to find many screen grabs of these guys. But the beauty of these is that they're clearly meant for you to put them wherever you want, however you want, and of course buy mulitples to armybuild.

While the idea of water transfer decals is neat, it didn't come without some hiccups. Myself (and many others who bought this figure) noted that the decal sheet was stuck to the plastic blister of the package, and it rendered the decals unusable. NECA Customer Service stepped in, however, and provided me with a completely new set of decals, free of charge. So that was nice of them.

Despite the limited appeal of this figure, I really do dig the quirky design. I barely remembered what these guys looked like before seeing the figure, but in hand it's a really neat design, with a very detailed sculpt, useful articulation, great paint and some unique accessories. NECA clearly made this figure with armybuilding in mind, and if I had the space I'd even consider getting a couple more, if for no other reason than to show off the goggles in both positions.

I originally couldn't figure out why NECA would utilize so much new tooling on a figure that was barely glimpsed in the film and not remembered by many, but I now have a theory. Originally, I assumed they were counting on people buying multiples, and while that may be part of it, I'm now pretty sure that there's one more character design that can utilize at least part of this sculpt.

In addition to the commandos, several other WY employees arrive to meet Ripley on Fiorina 161: Michael Bishop, who designed (or may actually be) the Bishop android, as well as several scientists and camera men. But there's another group of soldiers as well, with a slightly different design than the commandos. Dubbed the "dog catchers," these troopers carry long snares and feature full basket face masks and an overall less bulky outfit. However, the jacket, collar and sleeves seem almost the same as the WY Commando... so don't be surprised if we get one of these "dog catchers" in a future wave. And remember, you heard it here first!

-- 07/19/16

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