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Masters of the Universe
by yo go re

When, in the 80s, He-Man began to out-sell Mattel's major cash cow, Barbie, the company tried to create a merger of the two, and came up with She-Ra, Princess of Power. rather than teaming up with her brother to fight Skeletor (because, really, that's a one-man job), she got her own villain: Hordak.

His origins are unknown. His evil is unfathomable. His hunger is insatiable. He is Hordak, the most ancient of the older sorcerors. After a failed effort to create a Dark World from Eternia that almost destroyed the planet, Hordak sought the services of newer apprentices to serve alongside his Shadow Weavers. His efforts begat him the young but resourceful Keldor, who betrayed his mentor and sent him and his mages into the otherrealm known as Etheria! However, his banishment came at an adavantage. In Etheria, he learned of the Horde, an ageless group of warriors who used a combination of machinery and magic to destroy and conquer all that lay before them. The ambitous Hordak fought and murdered the Horde Prime and assumed power over their magic technology - the Alchemech - and the massive base of operations, the forsaken lands known as the Fright Zone! Now an enemy of the Rebellion of Etheria, Hordak uses his powers to create legions of living nightmares, bound to his will for all eternity by his magic totem - a large winged symbol of his own terrible likeness!

Fans got a hint of what the Four Hosemen's redesigned Hordak would have looked like when NECA released their bust, but that only goes so far - down to the waist, in fact. Unfortunately, Mattel ruined their toyline before we could get an action figure of the guy, so any hope of seeing what his arms and legs looked like seemed to go right out the window, until NECA stepped up again, this time with their ministatues.

The old Hordak always looked like a spaz, in both the cartoon and the toys, but the Horsemen really worked their magic on him, making him not just respectable, but truly menacing. He has a very bat-like visage, from the pointed bits of his bony face to the leathery cape that hangs from his shoulders. Since his symbol on the cartoon was a red bat crest, this makes good sense. He's got pointy ears, a skeletal nose, three horns on each side of his head and a ridge running back along his skull. The design has definite hints of the original design, but goes much, much further than even most of the Horsemen's MotU updates did.

The detailing on Hordak is superb. His costume isn't a single garment, but is rather constructed from overlapping plates of metal and flaps of leather, and the intricate pattern is impressive. The cape is cracked and textured, the leather panels of his skirt are riveted together and the metal bits of his gloves and boots look like they were once polished and shiny. Spines run from his kneepads down to his rather demonic feet. The MotU figures were already highly detailed, but these statues raise the bar even higher.

Since these are specifically recognized as collectibles, the paint isn't just slapped on haphazardly. Hordak's skin is gray, but a subtle wash catches the shadows and brings out his warts. The silver rivets stand out against the black of his costume, while the red of his bat symbols is quite muted, blending in nicely. His face is the color of bone, but detailed with grey shadows and deep red eyes, and a wash settles in between his tiny, sharp teeth.

It's heartbreaking that these figures don't have any articulation, but such are the rules of NECA's license. Hordak does have a bit of... well, not "playability," really, but you can change him around. He comes with two accessories: an 8" battle staff and a right massive crossbow. The weapon's a nod to the old toy, though obviously much more detailed and impressive. The staff is quite ornate, and probably used to cast his spells or somesuch. He can hold either item in either hand, though he's intended to hold the crossbow in his right and the staff in his left. The head of the staff is removable, so you can slide it into his hand without breaking anything.

Each of the Masters of the Universe figure-scale statues comes with a hexagonal display base. Actually, they all come with the same display base: a generic technological thing that's color-coded to the character's allegience. The Evil Horde poses on a rusty red base - the same general color as Hordak's symbol. Neat!

Looking at Hordak, it's obvious what an excellent toy he would have made - if Mattel hadn't tanked the line a Panzer at the Maginot. His twisting pose makes him look nicely dynamic, even if he can't move. You might think it means that he was specifically designed for this mini-statue line, but remember: Tri-Klops was twisted like this, too. The detailing on the figure is awesome, and he looks ready to kick Skeletor's ass in an instant. If you can deal with the lack of articulation, then this is a worthwhile addition to your MotU collection.

-- 02/06/06

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