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by yo go re

If NECA is going to be remaking and homaging old Kenner toys, we want to see them tackle this one!

Mission: Infiltrate Alien hives in disguise, seek out Queen, and destroy.

Background: Highest-possible mission success ratio. Insertions using ATAX have had significantly lower casualty rates than air/ground offensives alone.

Weaponry: "Alien" Helmet with Alienator missile. Face mask scanner with Virtual Reality frequency. Hypo-draulic power-ram arm and pincer arm

Quote: "Trick or treat, your Highness!"

The ATAX Alien Disguise Armor was released between Series 1 and 2 of Kenner's Aliens line - so later waves of Series 1 pictured it on the back. The idea is a cool one: a suit of armor designed to resemble the Xenomorph's exoskeleton, so they're more likely to ignore you as you wander around their latest hive. Of course, that does assume that Aliens don't have some way of recognizing each other. It's not like they have eyes, but there must be some kind of sensory organs, or else they'd be bumping into each other constantly (though that would explain what the hell happened with Aliens: Colonial Marines).

The base figure is a nameless Space Marine - the way the packaging is laid out makes it look like his name is "Atax" (it's styled the same as "Bishop," "Hicks," and "Apone"), but that's an acronym for "Alien Tactical Advantage Explorer," the name of the armor; the dude inside it is unidentified.

And it's not like he's some generic grunt, either - he'd be pretty easy to pick out of a crowd! He's got bright red hair cut into a flat top, but he also has giant muttonchop sideburns and a white streak coming from his forehead. Add to that the scar running down through his eyebrow, and he starts to look like Marvel Comics' Rory Campbell - Ahab.

The armor he's wearing is black and bronze, with bright teal sections on the thighs and upper arms. The shapes on the armor are designed to mimic Alien anatomy, with ridged recesses in the limbs, odd flares coming out the side of the thighs, and a generally segmented torso. The back of his legs have shapes on them that look like the stringy, stretched-out material the aliens' hives and cocoons are made from. To keep things mechanical, he has pistons on his lower legs, and a thick hose that circles his torso and disappears into what we can pretend is the suit's power pack.

But you're not buying this figure for the Marine alone, you're buying it for the four pieces of armor that he wears: two boots, a backpack and a mask. It's cooler than it sounds, though!

The boots look organic, but they look like they're meant to look organic. They're clearly mechanical, with wires and pistons driving them. They function like stilts, too, adding 50% to the length of the wearer's legs. The boots just snap on to the sides of the figure's legs - no pegs or straps to hold them in place, only friction - but they stay in place really well.

The backpack has a slot that slides down on a T-shaped peg. Sculptural elements at the top line up perfectly with elements sculpted on the figure's torso, helping to sell the idea that this is all part of one seamless suit, not separate parts of a toy. At the bottom of the pack is a little vestigial tail, and above that are four rounded spots that suggest the tubes that grow off Aliens' backs, as well as a ridged spine. There are four things sticking off the sides that look like flipped or wings - not a typical xenomorph anatomical feature, but they still look fine.

There are two arms, mounted on ball-and-socket shoulders. Though they're shaped like xeno arms, they, like the boots, are technological devices that have just been shaped a certain way. The elbows don't move, though they're sculpted with faux joints to suggest that, in-world, they can. There are weapons on the end of each arm: a claw on the right arm (with a hinge joint, so it can actually open and close to grab the enemy), and a spiked mace on the left that can rotate.

To call the final piece a "mask" really sells it short. Yes, it fits over his head, but that's like calling your car a "jacket" because it covers your torso. The ATAX suit clearly has the wearer masquerading as an Alien Queen, because although it has the typically toothy xeno face, it also has the wide, flat crest coming out the sides of the head. This piece just slides onto the human's head, which can unfortunately cause some paint rub. Very easily, in fact. There's an eyepiece sculpted inside the mask that ends up in just the right spot against his face.

The "head ridge" on the mask is hinged, allowing it to raise up slightly. This is because the entire front half is a missile that launches when you press the lever in the back. Or when you don't. It's a very touchy launcher, with a bit of a hair trigger. If you don't plan to use it as a launcher, you could glue the missile in place.

The ATAX Disguise armor is a really unusual, but really cool, action figure. Removable armor is always fun, and removable armor that turns the wearer into an Alien queen is even better. The helmet rubs the paint off and the launcher has a hair-trigger, but who cares? They don't make the figure a loser. If NECA can make the old Blade Fighter vehicle into a modern toy, surely they can do the same for the ATAX.

-- 10/25/14

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