We’ve seen some real winners this year in NECA’s long-running Predator series. From the amazing Dutch figures to the first round of Kenner-inspired hunters, 2013 has been a year that showcases not only NECA’s incredible talents, but their knack for thinking outside the box to keep a toy line fresh and fun and interesting. It makes sense that Series 11 would follow suit, and it does, with three very cool, incredibly well rendered new figures that further expand the Predator universe in plastic.
Wasp is the third Predator we’ve seen this year from the “Dead End” clan. Featured in the short fan film which pits Batman against the alien warriors, Wasp joins the previously released Big Red and Albino Predators, really rounding out this cool and visually distinct sub-team of creatures. The Wasp might be the most interesting of the bunch– his black and yellow coloring is striking to look at, and the intricacy of the designs on his skin and the insect-like organic patterning on his mask make for a very dynamic looking figure, one that stands out well even amidst a large collection of Predators.
The Wasp features all the articulation we’ve come to expect from these figures, and thanks to his amazing paint job, even the reused parts don’t short change his design at all. The fan fic warrior gets his background expanded on his bio– he’s a Xenomorph hunter, which ties in nicely with his accessory, a spear with the severed head of a Xeno on top. Not only is this all new piece a cool idea and very well sculpted, it’s in scale with NECA’s Aliens line, helping to bridge the gap between the two sci-fi/ horror properties. Even if you’re not a fan of Dead End (which, I can’t see why you wouldn’t be), Wasp is worth picking up for the weapon alone.
The second Predator in this assortment is a second version of the “Borg Predator,” also known as the Lost Predator from the final scene of Predator 2. The previous version of this hunter featured his on-screen look, with hi tech cybernetic armor and no mask. For this second take, the NECA design team had some fun creating an all new mask and additional armor and weapons for the beast, and the result is another incredibly cool looking design. The new mask is much more robotic than Borg’s fellow Predators, complete with a red visor that stands out brilliantly against the blue/ silver metallic color of the armor.
To match his more technologically advanced weaponry, the Borg features a very elaborate shoulder cannon loaded with wires and weaponry. The armor here is all new, incredibly well sculpted, and does the perfect job of balancing a visually dynamic, unique look for this figure, while still looking very much like it belongs in this Predator universe. In addition to his shoulder cannon, the Borg also features a 6″ sword, with red highlights to match his visor, a sheath on his back to store the weapon, and a throwing disk with needle-like fins along the edge.
Rounding out the assortment is one more variant of our original hero, Dutch. One of the most buzzed-about reveals at San Diego Comic Con, this Dutch is by far the most stylized we’ve seen, rendered in his “Thermal Vision” appearance while being stalked by the Predator. NECA’s design team really went out there for this design, and it completely paid off! Cast in translucent green plastic, Dutch features only bright yellow and pink patches of paint, replicating the heat signals his body emitted while he was watched by the Jungle Hunter in the original movie. Doing something this stylized as a mass retail figure seems like a risk to me– he seems like the perfect concept for a Convention or store exclusive– but I respect that NECA would go so big and bold with this concept, and the heat signature image of Arnold Schwarzenegger has been so synonymous with the classic movie that maybe the wide release of this figure does make sense based on the pop culture appeal?
Dutch features the same sculpt we saw earlier this year, complete with his vest, rifle, pistol and knife, but the wild new colors certainly do not make him look at all like a rehash. If there’s one issue I have, it’s the lack of any heat signature paint apps on his back– while the front of the figure does an astounding job of matching up the brightly colored patches seen on our hero in the film, his back is solid green, with no paint at all. I’m guessing this was a decision made so as not to busy up the figure from the front (seeing as he’s cast in clear material), but limiting him to a front-displaying figure does make the gimmick of his deco trump the overall design just a bit. Fortunately, he’s absolutely fun and cool enough to get over the lack of paint on his back half, and he’s without a doubt one of the most eye-catching additions to the Predator collection we have ever seen.
The Predator series has felt for a while like the foundation of everything great about NECA. They’re incredibly well sculpted, with a keen attention to on screen detail and scale accuracy. Then they became among the first NECA figures to really step up in the articulation department, offering a huge range of posing options while never affecting the sculpting and detail. 2013 saw the third phase, in which the NECA design team started taking more risks with the line, focusing on unproven concepts like the Kenner and Dead End characters, and at this point it’s clear the gamble paid off. I love how creative NECA has been with this collection, how, 11 series in, they are still finding ways to make the toy series seem fresh without resorting to an endless parade of slight tweaks to the existing core characters. But what I love most of all, is how much fun these figures really are.