Kenner, like NECA, reused Alien sculpts whenever possible. For instance, Series 1's Gorilla Alien got new head, arms and legs to become Series 2's Mantis Alien. NECA didn't make us wait that long, releasing their Gorilla and Mantis at the same time.
By the time of Series 2, Kenner had stopped putting bio information on the backs of the cards, so there's no text for NECA to copy. The comic included with the toy (both the original and this update) showed a swarm of the things attacking a colony base, like this was Starship Troopers or something, but the only thing that tells us about them is that they can leap 30 yards like it's nothing, and that ATAX is good at shooting them.
Last time, we said that the Gorilla Alien was the plainest one available, which isn't strictly accurate. In that it's wrong. The Scorpion Alien was the plainest one, give or take some paint apps. The Mantis Alien would definitely never be confused for the ones in the movie, even if it was painted black.
It wasn't painted black. The Mantis Alien was (and is) molded in translucent green plastic and then painted silver over top. Sure, real praying mantises may not be silver, but real praying mantises aren't eight feet tall, either - clearly the facehugger glommed onto whatever the alien planet's native insect life was, and the name "mantis" was just applied by the humans as a convenient shorthand. And shouldn't it have two more legs than it does? Really, the only thing remotely mantid about this xeno is the way it holds its arms.
Kenner used the same torso (and action feature)
for their Mantis and their Gorilla, and NECA does as well - at least, to the extent that both NECA figures are built on the same mold as every plain xeno, just with new pieces added on to make the torso look unique. In that regard, NECA went above and beyond. There are new, larger clavicle things that wrap around the shoulders, as well as a major pad on the back. The tail is short and fat, with a spike on the end. The legs are new from the knees down, with an extra insectoid bend and broad, four-toed feet, while the arms are completely new.
And then there's the head. The Kenner Mantis
had a scrawny, forward-pointing neck and an underbite that Beavis would envy. NECA has changed both of those, making this Alien look more like an Alien. The top of the head is a series of pointy ridges, more like Aliens than Alien, and the spines on it neatly match up with the '90s figure. One thing that's definitely new is the way the head has bulges over the eyes - they're hollow pieces glued onto the sides of the head, but they make it look more like a mantis than the original did.
The new body parts mean new articulation. There's an extra segment in the legs, so there's an extra swivel/hinge joint there. The arms, which are already longer than usual, lose the superfluous bicep swivel,
retain the double-elbows, and have a swivel/hinge where the wrist would normally be, but then there's another limb segment between that and the hands, adding another joint. And since the hands are really just big, fearsome claws, there is yet another swivel/hinge joint on the "thumb" bit, allowing the Mantis to grab its prey. Although the thing about praying mantis females eating the males after mating isn't really true (they do it, sometimes, under laboratory observation, but you'd act weird too if a giant starved you and then watched you bone), the figure's jaw opens and its little inner mouth can be extended. There's no joint of any sort for the tail - I know, because I accidentally broke it off checking to see if there was one.
To add a little value to this set (as though all the new parts
weren't doing that enough already), it includes a small bonus: a pack-in chestburster, molded in green with black painted on its top and silver on its teeth. The tail is bendy, allowing you to make it stand up. If this is going to grow up to be another Mantis, though, shouldn't it be silver instead of black? Eh, that probably didn't look as cool.
Choosing the Mantis Alien to update makes sense for NECA: despite all its new pieces, it's still basically a regular xenomorph at its core, and they needed to make sure their fans were willing to buy into the idea of Kenner Aliens before going for something like the Rhino or Snake Aliens. The extra weight in the limbs makes it slightly harder to pose, but this is a fun update regardless.