Sometimes it can be hard for a new toy company to make its mark on the action figure world. A company can labor for years, trying to find the right property to launch it to stardom. Other times, they come out swinging, scoring a home run right out of the gate.
Mixed sports metaphors aside, SOTA Toys definitely fell into the latter category. Though they'd done design and sculptural work for other companies, their first in-house toys were the highly acclaimed (and mostly successful) Tomb Raider figures. A mix of great sculpts and plentiful articulation, the figures showed that SOTA had the skill to hang with the big boys.
Their second big movie line was this summer's sci-fi extravaganza, The Chronicles of Riddick. The followup to 2000's surprise hit Pitch Black, this film saw silver-eyed mass murderer Richard B. Riddick on a new planet fighting a new foe, the Necromongers.
While the figures arrived a little too late for the movie hype, they were still fairly well-received. Along with their Charmed and Street Fighter exclusives, SOTA brought 1,500 exclusive Necromonger Soldiers to SDCC '04.
The Soldier is an army builder, one of the faceless legions of troops used to dominate target planets. Well, not literally faceless; he does have a mug under that big football helmet, after all. In fact, it's Karl Urban's face - the figure is mostly a reused Vaako figure with a different set of shoulder pads.
Karl Urban is probably best known for playing Eomer in the Lord of the Rings movies, which might make him the first guy to have multiple figures on the market from different companies for different roles at the same time.
The Necromonger suffers from the same problem as Art Asylum's Star Trek figures: in his "relaxed" state (that is, all the elbow and knee joints out straight), he looks far too stiff and formal. When human beings are at rest, their arms and legs are not perfectly straight - there's a bit of a bend, and this poor guy lacks it. Of course, all the articulation SOTA included helps remedy that - you can give him a more natural pose.
The figure moves at the neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrists, waist, hips, thighs, knees and ankles. The right hip's sideways motion is very loose, which is reportedly a common problem with the whole Chronicles of Riddick line. Luckily, the joint's front-to-back range is still nice and tight. There's no way to check for this type of loose joints in the package, so if you buy the figures, glue surgery may be necessary.
The detail in the Necromonger armor is good - all those weird little scales and the ridges on the metal line up well on both sides of a joint. As mentioned, the shoulder pads are different, but they still build on the design of the armor so they don't look awkward or out of place. The helmet is a separate piece, but it's glued on - since the head beneath is the same as one on the regular releases, don't break your toy trying to pull it off. The figure's only accessory is some big pointy weapon that looks like a cross between an axe and a war hammer.
The Necromonger's reused body works for him, and keeps costs down for us. That giant helmet and the new pads help set him apart visually, but he still has a fine place in the line. If this guy had made it into regular case packs, he'd probably be a shelf clogger, so limiting his numbers and making him an exclusive is a wise idea.
Does SOTA have their act together or what? Tell us on our message board, The Loafing Lounge.