Let's get it out of the way right now: Ice Armor He-Man is very cool (pun intended).
As any astute reader of this site would know, I tend to loathe variations of action figures. In fact, in the very article I just linked to, I make much fun of a figure called Arctic Batman.
Yet, when I saw the first pictures of Ice Armor He-Man, I was excited. Not because of the concept - I do hate variations - but because of the design. Unlike many of the previous He-Man variations, IA He-Man is a mostly new sculpt by the Four Horsemen. It's also one of the best Masters of the Universe figures so far, and possibly the best He-Man, in my opinion.
Masters of the Universe is a mix of fantasy and science fiction. These days, I prefer the more fantasy-style aspects of the MotU mileau than the science fiction bits (I just can't get over the idea of using swords in a world where there are laser guns). When it comes to fantasy fiction and film, one of my favorite characters is Robert E. Howard's Conan. When Mattel announced the MotU relaunch in 2001, I was quite pleased with the poster they commissioned from artist Ken Kelly, depicting a very barbaric He-Man raising his sword to the sky, which was reminiscent of a famous 1960s Conan piece by artist Frank Frazetta.
I'm in favor of the Conanization (again, pardon the pun) of He-Man, who suffers enough from his lame name, bizarre friends, and tendency to turn into an 18-year-old weakling when he's not fighting Skeletor. Ice Armor He-Man is certainly a step in the right direction.
This is by far the toughest He-Man yet, especially compared to the first release. As you can see, he's also got one bad attitude. IA He-Man once again highlights the amazing talent sculptors the Four Horsemen have for facial expressions.
As mentioned above, this is one barbaric He-Man. He resembles a Viking, with furry boots, a much more furry loincloth, and what seems to be a wampa pelt over his shoulders. He's also got a stylish three-strap harness to highlight his now-familiar "asterisk" logo (here painted silver-blue) and some icicles jutting out from his shoulder pad. He's also got the best gauntlets on any He-Man so far.
This is the first He-Man variation that I think is an improvement on the original design. For the most part I dislike variations; they're a waste of time and money. As a child, if I wanted to play with He-Man, I wanted to play with him looking the way he usually does - not in martial arts gear or samurai gear or whatever other outfit he might wear. True, many of the outfits (including the ice armor) have shown up on the new cartoon, but they're still only temporary.
Nonetheless, Ice Armor He-Man simply looks cooler than the regular He-Man. His accessories aren't quite up to the same standards, though. He has a shield that straps on to his left arm. The shield contains a hook, and little fan-like "ice discs" can be slotted into the hook. When the figure's waist is turned, it locks about a third of the way around. When a button is pressed on the hip, the torso whips forward, flinging the disc. This is definitely one of the lamer action features from this line so far. IA He-Man also comes with an "ice staff," which really just looks like a big icicle.
If you check his back, you'll see that IA He-Man has a small "holster" on his back for a weapon. The ice staff doesn't fit in there, so it seems pretty useless - until you find out that the Four Horsemen originally sculpted an ice axe for the figure (and the axe even shows up in the cartoon episode). When I asked them about it, the Horsemen said the axe disappeared somewhere between their sending it to Mattel and the figure appearing in stores.
Before I finish this review, let me note that IA He-Man looks best, in my opinion, when his torso is twisted and locked half-way around. I suspect this may be a bit of deliberate pre-posing on the part of the Horsemen, but since it looks bad-ass, I don't mind at all. He also looks best when armed with the axe that came with the original He-Man.
In conclusion, this is probably the best He-Man figure yet - and certainly the best variation.
Agree with this review? Disagree? Discuss it over at The Loafing Lounge.