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REVIEW: MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS ICARIUS By Thomas Wheeler

You never quite know who's going to turn up in the Masters of the Universe Classics line these days, especially given that there seem to be five sources from which Mattel has to choose for additions to this superb line of action figures -- the original Masters of the Universe concept; She-Ra, Princess of Power; the 2002 Masters of the Universe concept; new characters that they make up on their own; and the New Adventures of He-Man concept.

This addition to the line comes from this last one -- the New Adventures of He-Man. I'll admit, when I first saw a picture of him, I pretty much assumed that was where he came from, but the name -- ICARIUS -- didn't ring any bells. I soon found out, that the character had in fact originally been known as FLIPSHOT. There was a name I more or less recognized. Icarius, it seems, was what the character was called in France. Apparently "Flipshot" was no longer available for trademarked use. And while Icarius is perhaps not quite as directly descriptive, it's still a cool-sounding name, and if one thinks about the mythological story of Icarus, it works.

I'll readily admit, I've been skeptical about Mattel's intention to include characters from the "New Adventures of He-Man" in the new Masters of the Universe line. The toy line upon which they are based was hardly He-Man's finest hour, and the animated series certainly wasn't. A little background on these so-called New Adventures.

The New Adventures of He-Man debuted as an animated series in the fall of 1990, accompanied by the new action figure line. Although the animated series was intended as a continuation of Filmation's "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe", most of the action beyond the initial episode didn't take place anywhere near Eternia, and the only two characters to really carry over were He-Man and Skeletor. Nor was the series produced by Filmation.

According to the backstory, He-Man, legendary defender of the planet Eternia, has been summoned to the futuristic planet of Primus to defend the planet from the evil Mutants of the neighboring planet of Denebria. But his old adversary. Skeletor, has followed him, and has allied himself with the Mutants in his fight to conquer the entire universe. Together with a team of Galactic Guardians, He-Man fought to defend Primus and all its power resources from the constant attacks from Skeletor and the Mutants.

The shift in tone was considerable. Both He-Man and Skeletor were substantially redesigned, and the concept moved away from the sword-and-sorcery imagery of the original series -- which admittedly also made use of some high technology -- and into a more straight-forward futuristic science-fiction landscape, one in which both He-Man and Skeletor always seemed somewhat ill-suited in my opinion.

To be honest, there were a number of reasons I was never terribly impressed with the concept. One of these was character design. The vast majority of the heroes were human. Now, there was no shortage of human types among the heroes of Eternia, but there were also a wide range of distinctly non-human characters among both the heroes and villains of the original concept. This certainly allowed for a considerable variety.

The heroes of the New Adventures seemed to be mostly human, professing various specialties which could be carried out through the use of internal gadgets within the figures, or an assortment of accessories. It was almost as if He-Man was leading a team of futuristic G.I. Joes. Certainly nothing wrong with G.I. Joe, but it didn't fit well with what had gone before among the Masters of the Universe.

Similarly, the villainous Mutants struck me as a generally uninspired lot. Most of them didn't look like much of anything. They had strangely deformed heads -- one of them was even called "Butthead" and one would suspect that if Mattel ever gets around to HIM again they'll change his name -- that as much as anything looked as though some clay had been thrown together in a pile for the headsculpt and pretty much left as is.

The animated series wasn't much better. Although the quality of the animation was very decent, the stories weren't especially inspired, and I pretty well gave up when I realized that the most bizarre characters on the show were a trio of overly-cartoonish alleged scientists that could have given the Three Stooges lessons in dimwittery.

I'm sorry, maybe the show was halfway decent, but I just couldn't take it after that. The toy line had a relatively short run and that was the last anyone would see of He-Man for nearly a decade.

There was one interestingly-designed and certainly distinctive villain in the toy line, that I did believe would make a good entry in the Classics line. His name is Optikk, and he was most definitely a standout in an otherwise not especially outstanding line, with a head that consisted entirely of a huge eyeball, supported by complex humanoid armor. This was an impressive idea, and indeed, some time back, Optikk became the first figure from the New Adventures concept to be brought over to the Masters of the Universe Classics.

Nevertheless, I remained skeptical about the ability of anyone else from that concept to make the jump. I still do. However, if Mattel can make them into something as cool and as impressive as Icarus here -- then maybe, just maybe, it might work.

So, how's the figure? Really outstanding -- and I didn't expect to say that.

For starters, Icarius is an excellent Masters of the Universe Classics style incarnation of his original version. And that took a lot more work -- not to mention new parts -- than the average transition.

The transition between an original Masters of the Universe figure to the new Classics line, while not necessarily easy, has, I believe, become a somewhat established procedure, due in large part to the fact that many of the figures in the original line shared similar body molds, as do the Classics, which while somewhat larger, more detailed, and certainly more articulated than their ancestors, nevertheless share the same similarities in design, as one would expect, and can therefore share the same parts.

The New Adventures of He-Man line used no parts from the original Masters line, and the figures were a lot more individual in design. In basic appearance, they were also quite different. They were more slender, with longer legs (frankly better proportioned), and for that matter, there wasn't a furry loincloth to be found. Even He-Man himself traded in his original outfit for something a little more futuristic.

Now, the previous entry from the New Adventures concept, Optikk, was such a radical character in his own right, that it wasn't too much of a stretch to use a few existing parts for his armored arms and legs, and then craft an entirely new torso armor, and head -- er -- eye -- um -- whatever... While he didn't look precisely like a straight transition from the New Adventures line to the Classics line, he was certainly close enough.

Icarius? Okay -- wow. New head (obviously), while new torso armor, hew arms, new trunks, new boots... in other words, a whole lot of new parts, all to make this figure look as much like a Classics version of the New Adventures figure, and a lot of these parts aren't terribly likely to see a second use, because they're so distinctive to the character. That's extremely impressive.

Icarius' uniform is mostly blue. Unlike a fair portion of the Masters of the Universe figures, which seem to be somewhat underdressed whatever their various skin colors or textures may be, the heroes of Primus tended to be outfitted in what could arguably be called sci-fi-based superhero suits -- the same sort of muscle-emphasizing tights that Bruce Wayne hangs in his Bat-locker and Clark Kent goes looking for phone booths to change into.

Icarius appears to be wearing a somewhat armored chest and backplate. These are a slightly darker blue than the rest of his uniform. The armored section features a silver-trimmed V-shaped collar, and a small rectangular device at the top of the abdomen, also silver in color, with two ridged hoses curving up the chest. There are two ridged, red areas on the torso armor, which also has slight flares at the shoulders, and silver indentations along the sides.

Icarius' collar, sleeves, and trunks are highly ridged. This was one of the things that especially impressed me about this figure, because these are all entirely new parts. They're in keeping with the Masters of the Universe Classics body pattern, of course, but I've never seen any previous figure with this sort of ridge pattern. The trunks are especially brand new, and definitely not at all like a furry loincloth. They also feature a silver belt with a red buckle.

There are interesting little metallic blue highlights on Icarius' upper arms. I'm not sure if these have any specific purpose, or are just intended as decorative. Technically, Icarius is a member of an organization called the Galactic Protectors, and they do use rank designations. More on that when I get to his bio card.

Icarius' lower arms have silver cuffs, with an angled detail. His right hand appears gloved, while his left hand is not. Interesting combination. I'll refrain from making any Michael Jackson jokes. Icarius is cooler than that.

About the only parts of Icarius that have seen previous use, I suspect, are the torso underneath the chest armor, and the upper legs, which are fairly straight-forward. Icarius has extremely fancy and unique boots, silver in color, angled very much upwards in the front, with small wings to the outside, and small jets on the inside. The tips of his boots have little light blue details on them. It's not too much of a leap of imagination to see these as, perhaps, the same sort of running lights used by airplanes?

Icarius has an entirely human face, fairly youthful looking, but also with a determined expression. Brown eyebrows and extremely well painted brown eyes. He is wearing very sophisticated helmet, silver in color, with a broad ridged band down the center, and a fancy visor with angled sides, and a transparent red front that slides down over Icarius' eyes. The visor is a little prone to coming off more easily than it should, when moved up or down, but it stays put well enough.

Accessories? You want accessories? What was it I said earlier about the original New Adventures of He-Man figures being dependent on internal or external gadgetry in order to achieve any real level of coolness? If one is impressed with all the new parts that had to be designed in order to craft the actual figure, then one has to be impressed with the amount of hardware that Icarius comes with.

First off, there's the winged jet pack. This device is huge, as accessories go, and very nicely detailed. Mostly silver in color, it has some red and blue detailing on it, and looks like something right out of Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers. It has two large jets mounted on it, each with its own fin, and a large central section with fins of its own. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Icarius wears this pack with the wings pointed upwards. It snaps neatly onto his backpack.

At full full extension, the jet pack has a wingspan of 6-1/2". The wings are hinged, and can be folded back somewhat. The tips of the wings also house a pair of small missiles. They're not spring-loaded, so they don't actually fire, but they are removable. Fortunately, they also stay put quite well. If I had back every small missile I've lost over the years...

Although large, Icarius wears the flight pack very nicely, and is able to remain standing with it mounted to his back armor.

The other accessory that Icarius comes with is a pair of larger, connected missiles, that attach to a wrist-mounted launching mechanism that attaches to Icarius' lower arm. As with the missiles on the jet pack, these don't actually fire, but it does allow the figure to look that much more like his counterpart from the New Adventures line, and it certainly results in Icarius looking like he is well armed -- no pun intended -- for any battle.

One additional item that Icarius comes with is a second head. It's an unhelmeted version of his headsculpt. The original Icarius had a removable helmet. Apparently for some reason, Mattel and/or the Four Horsemen felt they couldn't really do that this time around, so they included a second head. Icarius' facial expression is the same, but he is revealed to have brown hair, cut rather short and stylish, sort of a slightly spiky not-quite crewcut.

Of course, Icarius is very well articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, boot tops, and ankles. I did have a little trouble getting the boot tops to rotate, but they will move if given a bit of gentle encouragement.

Any complaints? Just one. He stands a little crookedly. As far as I have been able to determine, the problem is in the upper torso. The assembly between the upper and mid-torso is just a little off somehow, and short of X-raying the figure -- which I don't have the means to do -- I can't quite figure out how it happened, nor do I have any real way to correct it. The mid-torso piece used is the one that's commonly used for figures that have separate upper body armor, and does not feature any sculpted abdominal musculature. If one removes Icarius' torso armor, he has a standard upper torso beneath it. I don't believe that's the problem, however, since this has certainly been done before. It's not severe, but it is noticeable, and I hope it's not a trend. I haven't read of it happening with anyone else's, but I do believe it's the sort of thing that shouldn't happen at all.

Let's consider Icarius' scroll-like bio card on the back of the package. It reads as follows:

ICARIUS - Daring Space Ace
Real Name: TC ICARIUS KAZ

A great pilot from the cloud city of Levitan on the planet Primus, Icarius is equipped and ready to "flip" into battle at a moment's notice. After his 18th birthday, he left home to join the Galactic Protectors. Rising to the rank of Lieutenant, Icarius traveled with Captain Hydron on his quest to find the legendary twin warriors prophesied to defeat the Horde Empire. Arriving on the distant planet Eternia shortly after the Second Ultimate Battleground, they recruited not only He-Man and She-Ra, but several other members of the Masters of the Universe, who were eager to pursue Skeletor to the stars. Nicknamed "Flipshot", Icarius utilizes a battle helmet, back-mounted jet pack, and concussion grenade wrist-rockets in battle against Skeletor and his new Space Mutant army.

Wow -- where to begin? For starters, we have a mention of another one of the heroes from the New Adventures series, Hydron, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him at some point. But beyond that, I think we can pretty well chuck the continuity of the New Adventures series right out the spaceport. I don't recall that the New Adventures series ever made mention of the Horde Empire -- although it might have. I really don't know. Conversely, it was certainly determined in the She-Ra series that the Horde Empire was a multi-planetary entity, so it's well possible that Primus was one of its targets at some point.

Additionally, neither She-Ra nor any of the other Masters of the Universe characters appeared in the New Adventures series, with the exception of Teela, who put in one appearance, but oddly, was given long blonde hair, and more resembled She-Ra. Yeah, don't give yourself a headache trying to figure that one out too much. I don't really think that's what the bio card is referring to here.

And I'd really like to know what this "Second Ultimate Battleground" is. The bio cards across the entire line have been making references here and there to events that would indicate that the history of Eternia, Etheria, and quite probably Primus now, took some very interesting directions following the conclusions of their respective series. However, since there is no significant media tie-in affiliated with the Masters of the Universe Classics line, the only hints we have about any of it are on the bio cards, which are welcome in and of themselves, since the previous lines never did anything like this.

Still -- one sort of would like to know. I mean, can we get something here? An animated series? A direct-to-video movie? A comic-book mini-series? A couple of official YouTube videos, maybe?

The bio card also makes a brief reference to Icarius' original name, Flipshot, calling it a nickname. Not surprisingly, there isn't the usual "TM" after it the way there is after most of the other names mentioned here. But it's nice to see it listed, anyway.

The "TC" and "Kaz" parts of his name are tributes to the real name of the original designer of the character.

One other package note. When a character in this line belongs to a specific sub-group, Mattel places a sticker on the package bubble denoting that allegiance. You can find them for the Evil Horse, the Snake-Men, Princess of Power, and so forth. Icarius has such a sticker. It reads "Galactic Protectors", but what's cool about it is that it's in the style of the New Adventures of He-Man logo that was used on the toy product. There's a red triangular design, with a purple rectangle in front of it, and the words "Galactic Protectors" in bold, somewhat squared-looking type, in gold. Virtually identical in design to the old toy line's logo. Nice touch, really.

So, what's my final word here? I'm extremely impressed. And as I said, I didn't really expect to be. My first reaction was, "What, one of those dull characters from THAT branch of He-Man?" But hey, this is a very cool figure with a lot of extra work and new parts involved. If you had a thought similar to mine, put it out of your head and have a closer look at this figure. He's extremely cool. And his backstory does a pretty good job of working him into the modern Masters concept, as well.

Icarius is an exceptional figure, from an exceptional line, and he comes with a surprising abundance of accessories. The original concept from whence he came might have been somewhat lacking, but this modern figure of him most assuredly is not, and I believe that any fan of He-Man will be very pleased to add him to their collection. I certainly am glad to have him. Flip him into your home and give him a shot! (Sorry, I just couldn't resist...)

The MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of ICARIUS most definitely has my highest recommendation!