Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Action Figure Review: He-Man Vs. Skeletor: 40th Anniversary from Masterverse by Mattel


   Since November is going to be groups of reviews (miniseries, if you will), the next stream of reviews will be covering Mattel's Masterverse line. Masterverse has gotten really interesting this year with figures from multiple different areas of Masters of the Universe including MOTU Revelation, Princess of Power, the concept art inspired New Eternia, and some figures celebrating the original vintage line. Today I'm kicking things off with a review of the He-Man Vs. Skeletor 40th Anniversary set, a 2-pack that went up for preorder on Mattel Creations in July during SDCC 2022 and which I received in the mail at the end of September. This two-pack features a classic He-Man and Skeletor in the Masterverse scale and style with diecast metal weapons. It's honestly a pretty impressive set and while there is a single carded 40th Anniversary He-Man out there, I opted for this one since diecast metal weapons for He-Man are pretty darn cool. There have been many 2-packs featuring He-Man and Skeletor, and while Skeletor said "Let this be our final battle!" in the 1987 movie, it absolutely was not; these two are never going to stop battling. It's pretty wild that we're living in a time when MOTU is pretty popular again, and I'd argue the popularity of MOTU right now is second only to its popularity back in it's heyday of 1983-1985. Ready to take a look at one of Mattel's many celebratory tributes to the Most Powerful Man in the Universe and the Evil Lord of Destruction? Then let's check out this He-Man Vs. Skeletor 40th Anniversary set after the break...

The Facts: He-Man

Height: 7 1/4ths inches

Articulation: Swivel/hinge ankles, boot swivels, double hinged knees, thigh swivels, balljointed hips, swivel waist, balljointed mid-torso, swivel/hinge shoulders, bicep swivels, double hinged elbows, swivel/hinge wrists, and a barbell jointed head.

Accessories: 4 interchangeable hands, Power Sword, axe, shield harness, left arm bracer, prop ring, and minicomic.

The Facts: Skeletor

Height: 7 1/8ths inches

Articulation: Swivel/hinge ankles, boot swivels, double hinged knees, thigh swivels, balljointed hips, swivel waist, balljointed mid-torso, swivel/hinge shoulders, bicep swivels, double hinged elbows, swivel/hinge wrists, a barbell jointed head, and a hinged jaw.

Accessories: 4 interchangeable hands, sword, Havoc Staff, harness, belt, and minicomic.

Non-Scalper Price: $80 dollars

* The 40th Anniversary He-Man from this set is in the middle while the Masters of the Universe Classics He-Man is on the left and the original Masterverse He-Man from MOTU Revelations is on the right. The Masterverse figures are definitely taller than the MOTC figures, both taller and a bit more slender, while this 40th Anniversary He-Man is bulkier and a little taller than even the Revelation He-Man. 


* The same things said for He-Man can be said for Skeletor. The 40th Anniversary Skeletor from this set is in the middle, with the MOTUC Skeletor on the left and the Masterverse: Revelations Skeletor on the right. I think I still prefer the MOTUC Skeletor over this one, but that's largely due to the headsculpt.

The Packaging:

* While lots of companies develop cool packaging for special releases and convention exclusives, I do think Mattel's Masters of the Universe packaging designs are some of the best. They don't feel like something cool but that you just end up destroying, but like actual items you might conceivably want to put in your collection. This set comes in a really nice and sturdy box that looks like a wooden chest. It also comes shipped in an exterior "mailer" box, which seems to have kept everything extra nice and safe during transit. 

* The weathered chest has the crest from the front of Castle Grayskull on the top. It serves as the latch, so lift it up and the two halves of the top of the chest open to reveal the figures inside. 

* Inside He-Man and Skeletor are both packaged underneath a sturdy insert with the Masterverse logo, a write-up about the figures, and the familiar "exploding rocks" background of the vintage toys. There's a small ribbon on the bottom which you can use to lift the insert, revealing...

* The figures, accessories, and minicomics. The figures are in plastic trays and you will have to cut a few ties, but you can easily put the figures and accessories back inside. Everything is stored in a cushy foam which keeps the heavy diecast items from clinking together and allows for the items to pop in and out without the need for any additional fasteners. 

The Positives:

* Let's start off with a look at He-Man. This version of the Most Powerful Man in the Universe is based on the vintage toy, so the colors and design skew closely to the original figure. I believe there is some reuse from other Masterverse figures, like the New Eternia He-Man, but that torso and harness are all new. The torso is much larger and beefier than the previous Masterverse He-Man figures, designed as an homage to the overstated proportions of the vintage MOTU figures. The body looks excellent with fantastic sculpting on the musculature and some paint effects to add depth and tone. The harness and the bracer on He-Man's left wrist are also separate pieces, easily removable if desired. 

* This boxed version of He-Man has flocked trunks and flocked boots. You don't have to just imagine that He-Man is running around in fuzzy trunks and boots, now; you can feel it for yourself! I will say that I've never really felt the need to have these items flocked, but it seems to be a popular thing to do for some He-Man toys these days and it is kind of fun. Silly, but fun. Of course, that can be said for a lot of MOTU concepts, right?

* The articulation on He-Man's articulation is pretty similar to the standard established by last year's MOTU Revelation He-Man. Everything feels fairly modern with double jointed knees and elbows and most of the joints have a good range of motion to them. Mattel's Masterverse articulation is not as smooth as the offerings from, say, Hasbro's current lines, but it's very durable and clearly designed to handle some play. I should also point out that He-Man has a vertically hinged wrist joint, allowing him to hold the Power Sword aloft. "I have the Power!"

* The hands swap out easily and are pretty standard. A right handed fist, a left handed open palm (which works great with the shield or in the classic "holding the sword aloft" pose), and two standard grips. 

* I've always loved He-Man classic axe and this is a great rendition of it. It's not only a nice sculpt with some decoration on the blades and some nicks and dings on the blade edges, but it's also die-cast metal. It's a really heavy piece, though He-Man's joints are powerful enough to use it like a regular plastic accessory. It isn't actually sharp, though. How could would that have been, right?

* And an all metal Power Sword too? How cool is this! It's not actually sharp on the blades but it sure is pointy. And well sculpted. I love it. How cool to actually have He-Man with a metal sword?

* The back of He-Man's harness has a slit to hold the sword in place when he's too busy punching fools or using his axe to need it.

* Guess what? He-Man's shield is metal, too! Well, the front of it anyways. Hey, you kind of need a meta shield to block Skeletor's metal sword and staff, right? The back is plastic, so the trap and handle are softer and more pliable, but the front can legitimately protect you from small, focused attacks.

* Speaking of attackers, here comes Skeletor! Skeletor looks awesome and I definitely think he's my favorite of the two figures in the set. He shares the bulkier torso with He-Man but that blue color, complete with some shading to bring out his muscles, is just really cool looking. That armor is great, too. There are quite a few great paint applications for the rivets and bones on the front. The leather-like material even looks kind of distressed. It's kind of subtle, but the paintwork here is far more complex than you'd realize at a glance.

* The headsculpt for Skeletor is pretty good. I'm not thrilled with He-Man's headsculpt (more on that in a minute) but I think Skeletor turned out well and nicely captures the look of the vintage figure while still being updated. The eye sockets are excellent and the detail on the hood is impressive with an intricate texture on the "fabric."

* Guess what else Skeletor has? A hinged jaw! It opens and closes nicely, allowing for some more expressions on old bonehead. I actually took most of the photos for this review without realizing the jaw was articulated.

* Skeletor's books are great. Like his armored bits, the texture and sculpt on these are also rather impressive with a wash to bring out the detail. 

* Skeletor's articulation really isn't any different from He-Man, so he's also adheres to the standard established by last year's MOTU Revelation figures. Double jointed knees and elbows, a good range of motion in most joints, and a sturdy build.  

* Skeletor four hands which you can swap out. A standard right grip, a gesturing left hand, a right hand fist, and a left handed grip. They swap in and out easily and have chunky pegs, so no worries about breakage here. 

* I believe the Havoc Staff is the same as the New Eternia Skeletor's staff but it's a deeper purple here and the ram skull on top is diecast metal. The staff and the horns are plastic, but the actual skull piece is diecast metal. It's kind of cool and does have a neat, shiny look to it. 

* Skeletor also comes with his sword (his half of the Power Sword in the earliest minicomics) and it's like He-Man's: The same sculpt and die-cast metal. Not sharp on the side but certainly pointy enough to cause some damage. 

* Skeletor's armor also has a slit for holding his sword. It slides in easily and stays in place fairly well. 

* One of the coolest inclusions in this set is a metal ring reminiscent of the glow-in-the-dark 1980's Warrior Ring from the vintage line. This is a really solid and heavy piece of jewelry. It is a bit small for me to fully get on my ring finger but I was able to wear it on my pinkie. It's a really cool artifact/ prop replica/ whatever and the red eyes (which are plastic, not rubies or anything) definitely add some extra punch to this.

* The ring opens up via a hinge, kind of like the Masters of the Universe Classics Warrior Ring, and inside there is an engraving of the 40th Anniversary of He-Man logo. I honestly think this ring is a pretty nice bonus and a big draw for this set. 

* Also included are full copies of the minicomics "King of Castle Grayskull" and "He-Man and the Power Sword." They're full comics and the printing looks great. If you don't have the Dark Horse minicomic archive (or even if you do), these make a nice addition to the collection and a cool throwback to the origins of the line. 

* Besides having the 40th Anniversary logo on the front cover and on the back each comic also has some commemorative artwork with a dedication "In Honor of Mark Taylor." A very cool tribute to the man who crafted and shaped the early world of Masters of the Universe and the characters we love so much.

* So... you probably realized I didn't talk about He-Man's portrait above. That's because I like parts of it, but I'm not overly thrilled with it. The hair looks right, as do the eyes....

The Negatives:

*But there's just something off about the rest of the face, especially the nose and mouth. They look too soft, kind of like the features on this He-Man mask. It's just not gelling for me. 

   This really turned out to be a very impressive set. At $80 bucks you're definitely paying more for it than for a standard Masterverse figure but those diecast weapons, the extra paint detail, the elaborate packaging, and the inclusion of extras like the minicomics and the metal Warrior Ring really do make this feel pretty deluxe. Honestly, the only thing I'm not completely sold on here is He-Man's portrait. It's just not as good as I had hoped for. Skeletor is fantastic, though, and without a flaw. Mattel has really went all out for He-Man's 40th anniversary and this set is a Great and a 1/2 part of the celebration. I know 40th Anniversary He-Man is available separately (without the diecast metal weapons) and I presume Skeletor will see a standard release at some point, too, but this set really includes enough fun details and extras to not only elevate the figures but justify the exclusive pricing. Mattel really went all out here.

He-Man/ Prince Adam is one of my favorite characters and I've reviewed so many toys based on him that he has his own review archive. Check out Fabulous Secret Powers for more He-Man toys!

I've reviewed so many toys based on Skeletor/ Keldor that I've given him his own review archive. Check out Snake Mountain for a plethora of Skeletor reviews!

For more Masterverse reviews, check out the following:

Masters of the Universe: New Eternia
Beast Man

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, it's a shame this one isn't more widely available. I'm sure Skeletor will get a standard release at some point, though. I can't see that full figure being relegated to just this set.

    And, yeah, the "Dolph" head looked pretty rough. Almost like Mattel may not have likeness rights, either (Super7 didn't, I believe, and based theirs on William Stout's concept art), so they're going off of the style of he character but not the actor.


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