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Skeleton Lords Decal Kit

Luke's Toy Store
by yo go re

You've defeated the ninjas, busted the ghosts, sent the zombies back to hell and autopsied the aliens. What's next? Skeletons!

The Skeleton Lords Sticker kit will allow you to raise an army of the undead with 10 brand new characters! It's a fun and easy way to expand your Minimate collection. These stickers have been designed so that anyone can use them. All you need is a sharp scissors and a little patience. After some practice you can make a brand new ghoul in as little as 10 minutes!

The Skeleton Lords Kit is sold in a fancy envelope printed with a nice image of four of the skeletons on the front, along with a nice, ye olde timey banner across the top. If you've purchased any of the previous kits, you know what to expect from this one; if this is your first time, you'll find two identical sheets of stickers (extras in case you mess up), instructions and tips on how to use the decals, and tricks to make your bone piles more unique.

This kit is a break from the norm. Unlike previous offerings, it really hasn't been designed to work with any particular set of figures: based on customer feedback, Luke's Toy Store designed the decals to work with a variety of base colors. There are a lot of plain blacks and whites, but also some that will work with common Minimate color combos like red and gold or red and blue. Whatever extra Minimates you have laying around, you'll probably find some way to use them.

Another new innovation is that you can now choose between water slide decals, like the previous sets have been, and stickers, like you'd find with GI Joe vehicles. We were sent the sticker version for review, and it's interesting to see the differences; right away, they're easier to apply: you don't need to soak them in water, or worry about the pieces ripping when you try to apply them. They're printed on a polyester film that's thinner than typical sticker paper (very important for small-scale figures like this). Each of the sheets has 58 individual stickers, so let's take a look at some of what you can make.

We begin with the Skeleton Lord. Since he lends his name to the entire line, he's probably the main guy. But on the other hand, GI Joe doesn't focus on Joseph Colton, does it? He's the one seen on the front of the envelope wearing gold chains and a crown - the chains you can get at any hobby store, but the crown? Beats me. The Skeleton Lord stickers are designed to go on an Iron Man body - he's wearing golden armor over his upper torso, with red cloth below that covering his sides. So when picking a body, make sure you choose one that has a similar layout: the IM I used has the two reversed, so now Skeleton Lord's body changes color as it turns the corner. Not ideal. Plus, his giant boots cover the shins, so the stickers that would go there have been repositioned to his thighs. For an eyeless skeleton, he's certainly got a full, bushy beard, hasn't he?

Looking at the names of the different designs, you get the feeling there are two different factions - we hesitate to call them "good" and "evil" because, after all, they're both living skeletons. But really, would one group need both a Skeleton Mage and a Skeleton Wizard? Those are basically the same function, so you can figure that one side gets one of them, and the other side gets the other. Using that logic, one of the king's enemies is probably the Skeleton Harpie. Imagine that the Skeleton Wizard wants to take over the kingdom of Ossuaria, and keeps sending monsters after the rightful rulers. As shown on the promo shot, the Harpie (yes, apparently not "harpy") is made on the Black Bolt body, so she'll have wings. There's armor on her shinbones, as well as plates over her shoulderblades and sternum. She's got the most interesting head of the bunch, as well, with heavy cracks all over her skull, even on the top - see, thanks to being slightly thicker and sturdier, the stickers can cover the hole in the top of a Minimate's head the way a decal can't.

The most vibrant character in this set is easily the Skeleton Jester. In a world of blacks, grays and other dark, desaturated armors, he's in bright, primary red and blue. For a kit not made with any specific figures in mind, it's pretty clear that these stickers are intended to go on Captain Marvel - yes, Spider-Man is red and blue as well, but not in the same pattern. The Jester is wearing the traditional fool's outfit, with little golden balls on his boots and collar. They're just printed on, obviously, but the design has highlights and drop shadows to give them a feeling of depth. His eyes are red spirals, oddly enough, and his jawbone seems misaligned with the rest of his head - perhaps a tumble went wrong? Interestingly, there seems to be some skin poking out at his neck; is he really a skeleton, or a human in disguise? Subterfuge!

Speaking of non-skeletons, another of the beasts the wizard employs is the Undead Monster. Designed to work with the Anti-Venom figure, the Undead Monster is gray and lumpy, with solid black lines designed to blend in with Anti-Venom's vestigial spider-markings. As the instruction sheet suggests, you can take a fine-point Sharpie and further customize your figures: in the Monster's case, that means short random lines all over his body, and some detailing on his forehead to blend the V pattern on the face in with the sticker that covers the top of his head.

This does bring us to one of the problems with stickers vs. decals: the colors remain more vibrant on sticker paper, and since Luke's Toy Store planned for the decal paper's natural fade, the stickers don't really match the Minimates' plastic color as well as the decals do. It's particularly noticeable on the Undead Monster, but all the stickers come out darker than intended.

If you have any blank Minimate bodies lying around, you can make some generic skeletons, as well. The white one, seen to the left, has been further detailed with Sharpie: the kit only provides the face, chest and back, and the shins; everything else I drew on, using the included front-and-back images of a human skeleton as a guideline. Don't think you'd ever need a plain skeletal Minimate? Imagine it chained to a wall in Dr. Doom's castle, or set up an X-Ray security scan at SHIELD headquarters.

To the right you'll see how a black Minimate becomes the Metal Skeleton - and if you can't think of anything cool to do with that, well, just take a look at the claws coming out of those hands, bub. Sadly, you can't draw on a black Minimate; I wish the kit had gone all out for the plain skeletons: you know, designs for the upper legs, the forearms... heck, stickers are easy to apply, why not make them for the front and back of the waist, too? Sure, it's more design work, but still, this was a chance to really try pushing things forward with a (comparatively) simple design. If it didn't work out, they peel right off again.

You can buy the Skeleton Lords kit (in either decal or sticker form, or you can buy completed figures directly from the store - including one not available in the kit, the Skeleton Queen. How insidious! Get people hooked with the kit, then make 'em buy the solo figure to complete the set! If you want some weapons for your Skeleton Lords, like the sword my king is using, you can even buy those at Luke's Toy Store, as well.

The Skeleton Lords kit is a cool new addition to the ever-expanding ranks of third-party Minimate characters from Luke's Toy Store. It has some problems, sure: the stickers don't match the plastic, but the decal versions probably do; the skeletons could have used a few more stickers to complete their anatomy; and in what seems like a printing error, most of the chest decals overlap their bounding boxes, so if you cut them out along the black lines like the instructions say, they're too big for the bodies. Despite all that, though, this is another good offering. The stickers are way easier to deal with than the water slide decals (primarily because they're more familiar), and they're thick enough that once they're on, you can trim off any overlap.

But personally, I prefer kits designed to work with specific figures; yes, these are meant for "any" Minimate, but clearly there are some that work better than others. The Warrior is Armored Daredevil, the Mage is Moon Knight, the Guard is Titanium Man, etc. Why skirt the issue? All the kits work with any Minimate, so so it's just a matter of semantics. The difference is merely whether they tell you which ones to use.

-- 10/13/10

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