It was ten years ago this month that the fearsome foursome known collectively as the Four Horsemen–Eric “Cornboy” Mayse, Chris Dahlberg, Eric Treadaway and Jim Prezioso cast off the training wheels of McFarlane Toys and struck out on their own to create the action figures they wanted. They were barely out of the iron gate when Mattel swooped in and contracted them to design a radical revamp of the company’s most memorable action figure property, Masters of the Universe.
Thus was born a partnership that would bring ecstatic collectors not only new MOTU toys but also Harry Potter, DC Universe Classics and the Ghostbusters (leaving only one burning question: where the hell are the Thundercats? But I digress).
However, the Four Horsemen were not content to rest on their Mattel-sponsored laurels. In 2005 they created FANtastic Exclusive, a yearly contest in which fans voted on all aspects of a Horsemen-designed character to be produced and sold the following year.
Of course, they’ve had a few bumps along the way. While the 2006 FE, Xetheus, turned out quite well, the Horsemen went through a long run of bad luck in producing the following year’s Ramathorr figure. But now, the FE is back on track with Scarabus (now in production) and this year’s Raven currently in the mid-voting phase.
In the meantime, to keep fans sated, the Horsemen offered Queen Alluxandra, a female figure from the Seventh Kingdom world shared by Xetheus and Ramathorr. Like those two, Alluxandra has had a host of variants.
I can never afford the complete set of variants, so, I look among the options and choose the one(s) I want. This year, it’s Isadorra of the Ironspynne Clan.
Packaging: Since these aren’t sold in stores, the Horsemen can afford to give them truly collector-friendly packaging. The card is held onto the blister by three tabs along the back, and it’s simply a matter of sliding the card in and out.
The graphics are attractive, and the artwork of Alluxandra (by artist and FE fan Nate “Baena” Baertsch) is lovely as always.
Design & Sculpt: Without anyone looking over their shoulders, the Horsemen are able to let their sculpting skills go wild on the FANtastic Exclusives. The designs tend to resemble their work for McFarlane, though I think that’s more due to their influence upon McFarlane Toys in the ’90s than the other way around.
Isadorra is as detailed a figure as you’ll find in this scale and size. The most impressive work, as usual, is the intricate detailing on the armor and skirt. But the parts that caught my attention were the scar along her cheek, which is ugly in its realism, and the texture of the spines–they seem to be cut straight from the jaws of the Helm of Xaanm‘s distant relatives.
The only nitpick I have is the hair. While it looks fine on top, the strands that fall around her neck are rather thick, looking a bit too much like sculpting putty.
Plastic & Paint: I’d have to ask the Horsemen why, but neither Ramathorr nor Alluxandra & their variants have felt as solid and of as high a quality as Xetheus and his ilk. I suspect it’s a result of the rising costs of plastic and manufacturing in general.
In any event, Isadorra feels a bit more fragile than Xetheus. Fortunately, she’s still a lot more durable than Ramathorr. I was worried the spikes on her back would be stiff and prone to breakage, but they’re made from a softer, vinyl-like plastic and won’t snap off with an accidental fall.
The paint work, which was great on Xetheus but a bit sketchy on Ramathorr, is quite well done here. The complex applications of the make-up on the face is the sort of amazing work I wish we’d seen on Harley Quinn.
That’s not to say the paints aren’t a bit spotty–they’re some splotching and spotting, and some of the flesh paint has been scratched, revealing a bit of black plastic beneath. It’s much more noticeable in the close-up photos than it is in person, however.
Articulation: Isadorra has a ball-jointed neck, ball-and-hinge shoulders and hips, Marvel Legends-style double-hinge joints at the elbows and knees, hinges at the ankles and abdomen, and swivels at the biceps, wrists, top of the thighs,
The only negative here is that the hip articulation is severely limited by the skirt. I’ve read that some people were able to cut the skirt to free up the legs more, but looking at it I’m not sure where you’d do that.
Accessories: Isadorra comes with a staff and a small sword. Both are cool, although I suspect you’ll be posing her more with the staff. The colors match and she looks more like a necromancer than a warrior.
Quality Control: The price you pay for such detailed work in this scale is that parts tend to be very delicate. Be careful with the staff; mine broke in half, although a little glue fixed it up nicely. (A friendly suggestion for the Horsemen: you may want to stop putting the circular grooves in your staffs. While a nice detail, they become a natural break point for the brittle plastic.)
One of the knee pads also came unglued, but a little superglue fixed that right up. While both of these issues were mildly annoying, they were easily fixed and don’t even compare to the problems we all went through with Ramathorr and his kin.
Overall: Isadorra is a fine addition to the growing FANtastic Exclusive collection. The quality control is much improved with the Alluxandra wave, and getting a figure with this level of articulation and paint application for the near-$20 price seems like an even better deal since the advent of MOTUC.
On a separate note, I do have to admit to being disappointed with the crop of variants for Alluxandra, though. Among the humanoids, I like Isadorra and Kromius, but the others don’t grab me, and all the cats leave me cold.