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Battle Armor He-Man

Masters of the Universe Classics
by Poe Ghostal

Almost as long as there have been action figures, there have been variations of action figure characters. But it was Star Wars - with its Tatooine Luke, Dagobah Luke, Luke in X-Wing Outfit, Bespin Luke, Jedi Luke, etc. - that proved kids and collectors were willing to buy the same character over and over again. Unfortunately, while the various Lukes made perfect sense, toy companies decided to create completely ridiculous variations of main characters in hopes that kids would still bite. This tendency would reach its nadir in the mid-1990s with the rise of Arctic Batman and so forth, but it still happens today.

But sometimes there's an exception that proves the rule. Even I can't deny Battle Armor He-Man had one of the coolest gimmicks ever seen. It was functional, the designs looked great, and the result was a He-Man figure many kids preferred over the standard version. Mattel even imported the feature into their other famous boys' brand, Hot Wheels.

To adapt to new enemies and situations, Adam has learned to tap further into the great power that his sword unlocks. The combined Power of the Universe and the Knowledge of the Elders is called upon by Adam and channeled through the Sword of He to create new forms of armor and weapons to combat evil. His Battle Armor was created to protect He-Man during his early battles with Skeletor and his evil warriors. Using the Power of Grayskull, He-Man - The Most Powerful Man in the Universe, is now shielded by his mighty Battle Armor!

You have to like the way they worked the battle armor into the growing body of MOTUC lore. Seriously, think about that - Mattel is really going out of its way to make a kind of unified history, tying together threads from all the various incarnations of the franchise. They don't have to - I'm willing to bet that sales would be identical without these bios. So while not all fans are going to love every bio, it's commendable they're even doing them.

When the time came to introduce Battle Armor He-Man into their adult collector-oriented Masters of the Universe Classics line, Mattel had to find a way to replicate the action feature without having to go through an expensive retool process. Their solution was to make three removable breastplates. Some fans were pleased, others not so much. The question, then, is this: is Battle Armor He-Man still cool without his iconic action feature?

Since the original figure's charm was largely based on its action feature, it's the design that makes or breaks this figure. And I'm happy to say it works. The design was sold from the first prototype images! The truth is that the battle armor just looks good. In fact, there are plenty of fans who prefer the battle armor over the standard He-Man harness, and that is completely understandable.

In terms of the actual sculpting, the Four Horsemen have done their usual trick of updating the original look to the MOTUC style. That means sharper edges and a bit more detail here and there. Nothing too fancy, but that's what is to be expected from this line. To allow for the battle armor, the figure has the somewhat controversial "flat abs" lower torso section. His entire chest (beneath the armor) is silver.

To replicate the results of the original action feature, the armor features three interchangeable breastplates. The battle armor has snaps at the shoulders and ribs, and each breastplate snaps into the armor nice and tight. You wouldn't be out of line to have concerns that the shoulder and rib snaps could get worn or break over repeated switches, but in my case, I'll probably display him with the undamaged breastplate most of the time.

The battle armor is made from a dark silver plastic that resembles galvanized steel in its look and texture. Very cool. But the paint applications on the "H" of the breastplates leaves something to be desired. It's very uneven along the edges of the H and the border. Due to the size of the armor, the figure can't bring his arms in as close to the body as the regular version. With the regular He-Man, if you squeezed his left hand around the section just below the head of the axe, you could get him to hold it in both hands; not so with BAHM: his mighty pythons just won't let you.

There's also something odd about the way the head works. I'm not sure exactly what it is, but the head seems to be able to float a bit higher on the neck, making the unarmored He-Man look a bit giraffe-like unless you deliberately push the head down onto the neck. It's likely this was done because the battle armor is so big; it preserves the balljointed neck articulation even when the armor's on. So they go out of their way to fix this - which is appreciated, don't get us wrong - but most DCU figures lose this joint entirely? Where's the logic in that? Unlike the reissue He-Man, BAHM's ankles are nice and tight. This must have something to do with the way they're packaged - the regular He-Man's in-package "battle squat" must be what causes those loose ankles.

The interchangeable breastplates are arguably an accessory, but the only true accessory is the axe. Given that the original BAHM also came with a sword, and that an extra sword wasn't included with the Goddess, it would have been a nice touch here, and helped make the $20 for a He-Man variation a bit easier to swallow.

My three favorite He-Man figures are as thus: the classic He-Man, Ice Armor He-Man, and Battle Armor He-Man. We now have two of those three in MOTUC style (and have my fingers crossed for Ice Armor - though he has to include a blue translucent Ice Axe this time!). BAHM is already destined to ride Battle Cat in my display.

So the answer to the question posed at the beginning of this review is yes, Battle Armor He-Man is still pretty damned awesome even without his action feature. Whether you agree is entirely up to you.

-- 06/28/10

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