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Panther Alien

by yo go re

So what's the opposite of "pspspspspsps"?

It's been a while since NECA released one of their Kenner homage Aliens: the Rhino Alien came out in 2020, and the only new thing we've gotten since then is a grey repaint of that. It's not like the xenoverse has been lying fallow by any means - the Nostromo crew and the first few Ultimate Lost Tribe Predators have come out in that window - but we've been utterly bereft of weirdo Aliens until now.

The original Panther Alien was part of Series 3, after Kenner had stopped printing specific info about the creatures on the packaging. It's not a great loss, since the info was halfassed at best, but it was kind of neat learning what new planets they came from and some tiny morsel about their abilities. How fast can a Panther Alien run? How far can it jump? No one can say.

[Not true! The UK figure releases came with "Bio-Data Trading Cards" that contained similar info, including one for the Panther Alien. We, however, cannot find any images or text anywhere on the net. If you can help, please let us know. --ed.]

If the Scorpion Alien was the plainest stand-in the old toyline had for a normal xenomorph, then the Panther was its Dog Alien: it's got a horizontal stance, with its long legs tucked under it and its arms stretched out to touch the ground. This one was sculpted by David Silva and Kyle Windrix, who are really NECA's go-to team for cool monsters. It does reuse the Dog Alien's stomach and possibly the hands, but the rest appears to be new: even on the parts that aren't immediately obvious as a different shape, such as the chest and thighs, there's just a ton more sculptural detail on the Panther's anatomy than there was on the Dog. No taking the easy way out, here!

Since Kenner's Aliens line came out in the '90s, all the toys were weird bright colors, rather than just being black. I mean, it makes sense, a peg full of similar-looking Aliens that were all the same dark color wouldn't have grabbed a lot of attention in the aisle at KayBee, you know? The Panther was about as far from "dark" as you can get, with a light cream base and copper highlights. NECA's tweaked the colors on a few of these updates, but the Panther is the same today as they were 29 years ago. Well, the base color is a little closer to gray this time, but that's not a major difference.

The articulation is necessarily similar to the Dog Alien's: lots of joints so the legs can crouch, hands that can't quite get flat on the ground, etc. The mouth opens so the inner jaw can extend, but it really doesn't come out very far at all - and since it's the same pale gray as everything around it, it's hard to see. The two joints in the neck are way more flexible, too, allowing the head to hinge down far enough that it's almost resting against the chest. Why do that? Because action features!

The original Panther Alien had a "Flying Attack Parasite" that fit into a notch in their back, then launched like a missile when the head moved down. NECA wasn't going to do a spring-loaded gimmick in their toy, but they still included the parasite. To simulate the old ability, this one is magnetic, so it attaches to the Panther's back in the same way. Neat! Unfortunately, it's made from the same translucent orange plastic as the dome on Panther's head, so it's hard to make out all the details. The '90s version had two large, crooked legs tucked up underneath it, while this one gets eight smaller legs and a vestigial tail. It's a weird facehugger! Panther Aliens forego the egg phase of the life cycle and just carry them on their backs!

NECA's wasted no time on going back to the well with these molds. Like we said, the original Panther Alien was released in 1993, as part of the third series of Kenner's Aliens line, but a repaint of it - the Night Cougar Alien - was released later that same year. It had more traditionally xenomorphic colors, black and silver with some red slashes. Well, NECA's Night Cougar showed up in stores at the same time as their Panther, so you can pick which one you want, or get both if you feel like it. No need to wait a few months like there was with the Rhino Alien repaint! Whichever color you prefer, this is an interesting update with a clever modernization of the old action feature.

-- 04/03/22

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