We’ve become so accustomed to having the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in our lives that the name of the franchise has almost lost all meaning. Well, maybe not all, but I feel we mostly have lost sight of how ridiculous a concept this franchise is. And it extends to other characters in the franchise and I’m talking about Krang. Krang from the cartoon series is an oversized, talking, somewhat monstrous brain. In the context of the show, he’s perhaps not as outlandish a design as he would be in another show, but he’s still pretty out there. And then you add in his body. A large, bald, man in a red diaper and suspenders. Krang can’t go in his head like a normal brain would because then he’d no longer be visible so he has to go in the body’s stomach. I think it’s Vernon who draws attention to this factor in the fifth episode of the series when he sounds positively repulsed at the sight of a man with his brain in his stomach, and he’s right to be grossed out! Krang is one of the craziest designs from a popular franchise that I can think of.
And if you have a deep familiarity with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles then you know Krang is taken from the original comics, only there his race of beings were called the Utrom. There weren’t many (any?) that were actually named, they were just alien brains that got around in robotic bodies. Like Krang, they controlled those bodies from the stomach area, but unlike Krang their bodies were far more mechanical looking. Think the endoskeletons from Terminator, as that’s more in-line for how they appeared. They were foes to the turtles, but also tied in with their origin, and I’d elaborate more, but ever since the 2012 show came along the Utrom and the Kraang from that series kind of run together in my head. Needless to say, they play a significant enough role in the original comics that an action figure from NECA made sense.
The Utrom from NECA stands at right around 6.625″ in height. It comes in the standard window box packaging with new artwork from Kevin Eastman on the box depicting the character. On the rear are product shots and a cross-sell for more figures in the line. Let’s just get right to the big talking point with this guy: the paint job. This figure is gorgeously painted. If you thought the Fugitoid figure looked terrific, wait until you see this. It is fantastic! I am in love with how this figure turned out. It’s sculpted in a light blue plastic, like a periwinkle, with white accents painted onto parts of it to go along with the usual black linework this line is known for. There’s also a hit from an airbrush that contains some gray paint and the effect is just wonderful. This looks like it jumped off of the the page, colored version, and I just love how stylized this looks. This is what I want from action figures based on comics. You can’t sculpt it in chrome, and just making shiny plastic isn’t going to achieve the same end result. The eyes are also painted yellow with a hit of yellow from the airbrush to create the illusion that they’re glowing. The Utrom in the figure’s stomach is also well-painted. The eyes and teeth are clean and there’s a wash applied to really bring out the nasty with this little guy. And with this amount of paint on the figure, there’s virtually no slop. No stuck joints. It’s about as perfect a paint job as one could get in this price range. If I have any nits to pick with it, it’s that a couple hits of the white look a little thin. Maybe the neck area and some of the details on the arms could have used another hit of the airbrush, but that’s all minor and just me trying to poke holes in this thing because, otherwise, it’s awesome.
The wonderful thing about this figure too is it has a sculpt to match. There are tons of little details in the arms, especially, that look like wires and little machinations. I love the contrast of the smooth plates on the figure’s thighs and the ribbed portions underneath. The rear of the figure is really loaded with sculpted details which is commendable since that’s a spot NECA could have cheaped out on, but obviously did not. It all speaks really well to NECA as a company because they’re clearly committed to delivering the best, most accurate, representation of the character possible. Who knows if much or any of this figure can even be reused for other figures. I’m sure we’ll get a variant at some point, but we have numerous examples of other companies just half-assing their sculpts to present a compromised vision of a character in the interest of saving money on tooling and NECA is just putting them to shame. And something I should praise NECA for more often than I do is that they credit the folks who design their figures so a major shout out and hearty congratulations to sculptors Brodie Perkins and Josh Sutton with paint credited to Geoff Trapp and Mike Puzzo. We should also probably give a shout out to director Trevor Zammit as I assume he’s the one pushing to make these look like the source material and he just does a fantastic job with all of the TMNT lines he oversees at NECA.
We’ve gushed over the look of this one, now let’s talk about the stuff it comes with. The Utrom has three sets of hands: fists, gripping, and trigger finger. All of the hands feature the horizontal hinge, our first disappointment of the release, but I do like that the fingers are soft plastic and getting the accessories into the trigger hands is relatively easy and free of paint rub. He also has a gun and it has a really fun design as it has these panels over it. It has some linework on it and the muzzle is painted rather simply, but well. There’s two red tools for the figure to wield. One resembles a wrench and the other is a bit more nondescript. I’m guessing it’s pulled right from the comic, but I don’t know exactly what it is. He also has a little canister with a straw in it. I think this is a drink for that actual Utrom in the belly, the only problem is he doesn’t hold it very well. The fingers on the trigger hands are flexible enough that you can wedge it in there with some effort, but a more relaxed hand would have worked better. Lastly, we have a second portrait for the robot that features battle damage. It’s right eye is hanging out and there’s a big gouge taken out of the top of the head that looks really cool. It’s nice enough that the temptation is there to get another figure, I just wish he had more battle damaged parts to swap to or even a second Utrom with a different expression to create a bit more variety. The Utrom that came in the comic con 4-pack years ago is much too big to fit in this guy.
The accessories are solid leaving just the articulation for us to talk about. Like most of the figures in this line, the articulation isn’t going to be the strongest aspect of the release, but I think it’s going to be enough. There’s a ball joint in the head that provides rotation and some nuance posing. It looks down well, but not up. The shoulders are ball-hinged and you get all of the rotation you need, but the boxy shape of the shoulder means the figure can’t raise its arms out to the side. You get maybe 45 degrees there. There is a biceps swivel and it’s integrated very well into the sculpt. The elbow hinge is only a single hinge, but the design allows it to go past 90 degrees so that’s fine. The wrists swivel and hinge and I already mentioned the direction of the hinges is unfortunate. In the diaphragm, we do have a ball joint above the opening for the Utrom. It’s actually more functional than I expected as you get a little forward and back, some tilt, and a fair amount of rotation. At the waist is another twist and the hips are the standard ball and socket joint. There’s a thigh pivot there that provides just a little something for adjustment poses as opposed to a full thigh twist. The legs kick forward to a full horizontal position, though they do drift out from the body a little the higher you go. There’s no range going back, and the single-jointed hinge will get you a 90 degree bend. At the ankles we have a hinge that allows for plenty of range backwards, but nothing forward. The ankle rocker works fine. It’s decent and I think it’s enough for this character. He can do plenty of one-handed gun poses. I do think NECA could have sacrificed a little bit in the sculpt at the shoulders for more range, and the lack of vertical hinges for the hands is an ongoing problem. The actual Utrom in the body is not articulated, but I don’t think it needs to be.
The Utrom may not be a character that gets a lot of TMNT collectors excited, but the finished product is one of the best releases from NECA in a long time. I think this is easily my favorite from the Mirage line and I would put it up there with the best from the toon line as well. I can’t say enough good things about the paint job. This comic deco is fantastic and I love that NECA has the guts to try something like this with its figures. So many collectors dump on “cel-shading” when it comes to figure releases without realizing that most of the companies attempting that effect with their figures do a piss poor job. It takes effort and money to get it right as well as artistic vision. I’ve said it numerous times, but natural lighting cannot shade an action figure based on a comic book character the way that character is drawn in the book. It’s impossible. Comic book artists do their own thing that doesn’t work in reality and no one complains because it looks awesome. It’s stylized, but some of it is so prevalent that we don’t really think about it. I always use Venom as an example. We know his costume is black, but if you showed a panel from “Lethal Protector” to a kid he’d tell you the costume is blue because that’s how comic book artists shade black. And that’s what I want out of my figures. Major props to NECA on this one, they hit a homerun. I can’t wait to see what they do next.
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