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Bionicle Phantoka
by Artemis

They say the line between genius and madness is a thin one, and when you've got swords for hands, it's no wonder it becomes a bit tricky to maintain a grip on it.

Where there is evil to be done, insane genius Makuta Chirox unfolds his wings and takes to the sky. Armed with a Tridax Pod, blade hooks, and Mask of Silence, this twisted being creates bizarre creatures and brings darkness to Karda Nui.

That's an odd phrase, "where there is evil to be done" - is evil just sitting around Karda Nui, twiddling its thumbs and waiting for someone to do it? I guess evil's an easy lay, though if someone like Chirox showed up looking hopeful, you'd hope it at least made him wear a paper bag over his head. Just because you're a philosophical concept doesn't mean you can't have standards.

Just as Vamprah was more or less a normal Toa-sized Bionicle aside from his knife-legs, so Chirox fits the standard mold until you get to his arms. Instead of the standard upper arm/lower arm/hand arrangement, Chirox has articulated rods extending upwards from his shoulders, giving him the mother of all hunches, and then from the tops of those sprout bulky upper arms with wings attached to them, ending back around shoulder-level with thin lower arms, which instead of hands (or even the generic Bionicle equivalent) have balljointed mounts for his "blade hooks." It's a truly eccentric arrangement - and not especially practical, since the shoulder riser sits inside the hollow of the upper arms, all but immobilising their shared joint, and getting in the way of the presumed elbow lower down as well. You can just straighten the whole arrangement out, of course, but with no plug-in armour bulking out the thin segments, it just looks silly. The wings are fixed in place, but if you want you could leave them mobile just by omitting the second plug which holds them steady - both plugs are the black, heavy-duty kind, so they'll hold their position just fine with only one.

Arms aside, Chirox has the usual allotment of articulation: balljoint neck, hips, knees and ankles, with the Tridax pod secured in his chest, ready to pop out given a nudge from the back and deploy its quartet of shadow leeches. His mask is identical to that worn by Mutran - maybe that design is unofficially the Mask of Mad Science - but with silver fangs rather than green, the same colour scheme as the predominantly black wings. The rest of his body plays along, with just a few silver pieces adding brightness to an all-black body framework. The thigh armour pieces are a type used on a couple of other Bionicles here and there, but far from common among the 2008 sets, so that's a minor plus for him.

Like all Phantoka Makuta, Chirox has a right-angled connector piece to allow his designated Shadow Matoran to ride him like a kinky steed. His partner in sin is Kirop, who has an almost identical mask design, just a bit less elaborate, and a heavily similar black/dark grey colour scheme. In flight - which is the idea - they'd make an adequate pair, but since plastic can't defy gravity you'll have to either contrive some kind of stand for them, or put up with Chirox charging around on all fours, and there his weirdo arms are a big drawback.

In spite of their effect on the usefulness of Chirox's articulation, I like the arms - they look different, and fit the general vampire-bat image of the Phantoka Makuta. The real problem is that there isn't much else to this guy - everything from the neck down is just a standard, unremarkable Makuta frame. I think it may have been a better idea had Chirox's elaborate shoulders gone to Mutran, who as a boxed set with a large part allocation could've balanced them better with the rest of his body. Of course, Lego is Lego, so you can make that switch for yourself - but as a set on his own, Chirox isn't the best.

-- 04/16/09

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