NECA’s Kenner Aliens Make an Incredible Debut

By bill - January 3, 2017

The first wave of Kenner tribute Aliens action figures by NECA are mind-blowingly great.

To date, NECA has released three waves of Predator action figures based on the classic 90s toy line by Kenner, along with one-off releases such as the deluxe Predator Clan Leader, Terminator and RoboCop tributes, and “Space Marine” Ripley… but now they have officially branched off into a full sub-set based on Kenner’s Aliens collection.  Like the Kenner Predators, these figures re-imagine the aesthetics of Kenner’s vintage toys, using the same level of detail and craftsmanship seen in the rest of NECA’s releases, and the results are flat-out fantastic.

The debut Kenner Aliens lineup includes the Gorilla Alien– one of the first releases from Kenner back in the day– along with the Mantis Alien and the Queen Facehugger, both originally part of Kenner’s Wave Two.  Each new figure is truly excellent, in terms of sculpt, coloration, and articulation. While the Gorilla and Mantis each share a surprising amount of tooling with NECA’s classic Xenomorph Warrior (including the lower torso, upper arms, and upper legs) the all new sculpts of the chests, heads, and arms leave these two creatures feeling entirely unique.  And the Queen Facehugger is a very cool piece, expanding on the iconic creature design with creepy new features such as webbing between its spider-like legs, and a red and black color pallet which harkens back to Kenner’s old school toy.

Of the trio, the Gorilla is my favorite, based on both my love of Kenner’s original (he was the first Alien toy I ever owned), as well as NECA’s modern execution.  The figure sports a large upper chest and longer, bulkier arms which help to change the physiology of the figure, establishing a simian silhouette.  Like the vintage toy, NECA’s Gorilla sports a blue tinted paint job, which also serves to connect it to the aesthetic of the Alien Warrior from the debut series of NECA figures.

The biggest departure from the original on NECA’s figure is the headsculpt.  Like Kenner’s figure, the new Gorilla Alien features a larger cranium, but this version adds a crown of spikes on the back of the skull, which gives this creature an even more distinct appearance.  NECA’s Gorilla sports a glossy black dome on its head, which can be swapped out with a smoky, translucent version, or removed entirely to reveal an ape-like skull beneath.  Our new Gorilla Alien is finished off with a versatile bendable tail (featuring a three-pronged tip), and a blue facehugger, a nice nod to the original toy’s pack in accessory.

Back in the 90s, Kenner would often reuse tooling to create new figures, and their Mantis Alien actually borrowed heavily from the Gorilla.  NECA’s take on the insectoid Xenomorph actually takes way less from its series partner, but it makes for an astonishingly cool toy all by itself.  Cast in translucent green plastic with a silver wash, the Mantis’ pallet is the most unique among any Alien figure NECA has released to date, and the new parts– hock jointed legs, a thorax in place of the tail, pincer claw arms, and a great new headsculpt with a menacing row of teeth and angular, horn-like features– do a great job to distinguish this from your run of the mill Xenomorph.

The Mantis packs in more articulation than any other basic Aliens figure by NECA, thanks largely to the extra long arms and legs.  These unique limbs are impressive not only in terms of their range of movement, but also their overall size– despite being released as a basic figure, the Mantis Alien can extend to be the tallest, widest Alien in NECA’s collection, aside from the Queen.  It’s really impressive!  While I would have loved to see a green Facehugger included with this figure to match the vintage Kenner release, NECA opted to pack in a green Chestburster instead. It’s a cool accessory, even if it strays from the vintage toy line’s accessory concept.

Our final figure in the wave is the most unique.  The Queen Facehugger is an oversized adaptation of the iconic creature, blown up to measure about 5″ long (excluding the bendable tail), and packed with a smaller, “Beta Queen” accessory.  The design of this figure is really nice.  Rather than sculpt an exact replica of Kenner’s original toy, NECA has re-purposed their Alien 3 Queen Facehugger concept figure (intended for an unreleased accessory pack), painting it in the red, black and silver deco of the vintage figure.  This is a smart choice to surface a previously unreleased sculpt, and it works well for the overall concept here.  The inclusion of two versions of the Queen Facehugger in one pack also justifies the retail price, whether you factor in the bigger, more elaborate Gorilla and Mantis or not.

I was surprised by the articulation built into the Queen Facehugger.  I expected both creatures to be made of rubber with bendable wire frames, and while this is true for the Beta (and the Alpha’s tail), the larger of the pair actually features ball joints at the base of each spider-like limb.  Due to the overall shape of this creature, the articulation doesn’t exactly open up a ton of posing options, but it does help balance the figure to stand it upright, regardless of what direction its massive tail is posed in.

Back in the day, the notion of a “Queen Facehugger” didn’t make much sense.  Prometheus sort of helped justify its existence in the Aliens universe thanks to the Trolobite, but the lack of a bio on this figure’s package tells me NECA hasn’t worked out exactly how they want to position this creature in the overall continuity.

What does help a little in this regard are the reprinted Dark Horse mini-comics included with all three figures.  These books are direct re-creations of the comics packed with Kenner’s original toys, but printed on a glossier paper.  The stories are fairly simple (and clearly meant to help sell the toys more than continue the Aliens mythos), but they’re pretty well illustrated and do a good job of spotlighting the odd Alien and Space Marine designs in Kenner’s toy adaptation of the film.

As a kid, I loved the original Kenner Aliens toy line, and I’m happy that NECA has pulled out all the stops to make their first wave of tribute figures something truly special.  With intricate, highly detailed, and well articulated sculpts that pay homage to Kenner’s vintage designs while allowing room for some very cool artistic license, NECA has crafted some of the best looking and most fun Aliens toys to ever hit the market.  I can’t wait to see which Aliens (and maybe even Marines?) NECA chooses next as their Kenner tribute collection continues in the future.

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