REVIEW: MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS FACELESS ONE
There are some characters, within any given well-populated fictional concept, that has an action figure tie-in -- or has action figures as its core but becomes even better known through other media such as comic books or animated series, that look like they'd make very cool additions to the action figure collection, even if one considers the odds of that happening to be relatively minimal.
I wouldn't've minded seeing some of the human characters from the original Transformers animated series brought into the line, perhaps in a G.I. Joe style, but it never happened. There's a host of characters from the G.I. Joe comic books that I would have liked to have seen original-style action figures of, but I'm not holding my breath. I'm just grateful we got Kwinn and the original Oktober Guard.
Then there's Masters of the Universe. There's not as many characters here as in G.I. Joe that fit into the "wish they'd been a figure" category, but there are some. And a fair number of them seem to come out of the 2002 animated series, which makes it that much more unusual when they do turn up in the Masters of the Universe Classics line, which seems to take more of its cues from the earlier days of Masters than anything else. Nevertheless, every so often, somebody finds their way in. Chief Carnivus. Count Marzo. And now -- The Faceless One.
And here I am faced with a slight dilemma. If you have read other reviews written by me, then you know that I try to get into the background of the character represented by the action figure as much as possible. I have long been of the belief that this helps the action figure be a little more "real" to the person reading a review. It takes the figure beyond being an assembly of plastic, paint, and occasionally fabric and metal, and gives the figure a personality, a history, and, I hope, makes for more interesting reading than a straight analysis and/or rating of the toy, the package, the accessories, etc. There's plenty of those out there, anyway. I'm trying to provide something a little more in-depth.
Unfortunately, there isn't as much as usual to say about The Faceless One. He didn't even come along until the 2002 Masters series, and even then, was a bit player. As his name implies, he was a decided enigma. About all he had going for him was a very impressive visual appearance that, admittedly, had resulted in a very impressive action figure. But beyond a few bits of information which I can glean from the 2002 animated series and the related comic book, which itself had a pretty truncated run, there's not a lot I can say about this character beyond what Mattel presented on the scroll-like bio card on the back of the package.
So I suppose what it comes down to is -- this is likely to be a distinctly shorter review than I usually write for a Masters of the Universe character. This may get to be something of a trend, as the line gets into more and more lesser-known characters. Ultimately, there's just not as much than can be said about Clawful or Leech as there is about He-Man or Hordak. But to be honest, I feel rather badly about it, and I don't want anyone thinking that a shorter-than-usual review is an indication of a lack of respect for the character or the figure on my part. Ultimately, I can only work with what I have, and as far as background information on The Faceless One is concerned -- that's not much.
This is due in part, I have to say, to the nature of the character. He was an enigma in the animated series. He was mysterious, somewhat brusque, and looked rather sinister, despite clearly not being one of the bad guys. He wasn't neutral, the way Zodac was in the original series. Clearly he had some interest in the goings-on of Eternia, even if he didn't involve himself in them directly, choosing to live in isolation within the ruins of a region known as Zalesia, acting as the protector of a powerful object known as the Ram Stone.
What WAS revealed in the 2002 series, and was expanded upon in the comic book, was that he was the father of Evil-Lyn, one of Skeletor's most powerful lieutenants, and a powerful sorcerer in his own right. It was also made clear that he disapproves of his daughter's servitude of the evil forces and hopes that someday she will learn the error of her ways. The episode "Lessons" indicates that she still feels a familial bond with her father when she returns the Ram Stone to him after it was used by Skeletor in an attempt to breach Castle Grayskull.
The comic book went into far greater detail, showcasing both the origin of the Faceless One and the degree to which he was willing to sacrifice in order to aid his daughter, who at the time had been gravely injured in battle and was subsequently held hostage by the Snake-Men. However, the origin story is related, largely as it took place in the comics, on the package's bio card.
His background on his package card is -- a little convoluted, given his relationship to Evil-Lyn, and HER rather convoluted background. It does incorporate the details from the comic book, but needs to reference other material as well. But we'll get into that later in the review.
For now -- how's the figure? Very impressive really. I've been told that the Four Horsemen had to create several sculpts of the Faceless One's head before they found one they were happy with. This doesn't surprise me, given how unusual his face is. He's not called "The Faceless One" for nothing.
Due to certain actions in his past, the Faceless One had his humanity removed by the ancient Elders, who condemned him to exist as "a shadow of the man you once were", to quote from the comic book. This explains the Faceless One's black body, but his face, such as it is, was presented in both the comic book and the animated series as a minimal amount of facial features, that were dependent on the ambient light source. If, for example, the light source was to the Faceless One's right, then the right side of his face would be highlighted in white, while the rest would appear as black, merging with the black background of the high collar of the costume he wore. In short, it appeared as a partial white face up against an entire background of black.
Certainly this was something that could be accomplished readily enough in a comic book or an animated series, as two-dimensional artwork. Trying to render this on a three-dimensional action figure that has to exist in the real-world -- not so easy. I can see why the Four Horsemen went through several sculpts to try to capture a good likeness. Unlike the vastly more detailed heads of other characters, there's honestly not a lot to deal with here. The Faceless One's face is distinctly vague. And then you've got that shadow factor. How do you deal with that?
Ultimately, I believe that there's a limit to what you can do. You can't really sculpt shadow, and trying to paint shadow on a head is going to be rather limiting as well. Nevertheless, what the Four Horsemen came up with was amazingly effective. They sculpted a head, that was clearly humanoid, but still relatively featureless. It has very deepset, shadowed eyes, really eye sockets as much as anything, with some hint of a nose and mouth, and an otherwise bare head, with a few angular details to aid in the severity of the light-vs.-shadow appearance. The head was then painted in a very pale gray, darkening somewhat over the top and sides, towards the back, with the eye sockets painted black. The end result is a surprisingly effective rendering of the extremely difficult head of The Faceless One in a three-dimensional, real world context, and is honestly a lot more effective than I would've expected possible.
The head, of its own accord, is interesting. I had a couple of people confuse it with Skeletor, but they weren't all that knowledgeable about Masters of the Universe. The large, black eye sockets do give it something of a skull-like appearance.
The other thing the head has some vague resemblance to is those sketches of little gray aliens that people who believe they've been abducted by UFO's tend to come up with. This is doubtless a reflection of the grayish skin tone, the large black eye sockets, and the limited nose and mouth features. Given the fact that the Faceless One otherwise has the usual powerful muscled body of most of the male population of the Masters of the Universe line, the resemblance to those theoretical extraterrestrials, known for otherwise being rather short and slender, ends there -- unless they've got others that we don't know about.
The body of The Faceless One is molded in black. This, I believe, is a first for the line. It's again, entirely appropriate, as the Faceless One is supposed to be some sort of living shadow being, apparently, and is portrayed as having a black body, and in the comic book at least, his lower arms are outlined in white, and seem to have a slight glow to them. There was no way to duplicate that effect, of course, but the all-black body is appropriate.
The left hand of the figure uses the same unusual hand as Count Marzo. It has outstretched, grasping fingers, and is holding onto the Ram Stone object. This item looks like a sculpted amulet, colored in metallic turquoise, in the stylized shape of a ram's head. The stone is removable, but I see no great reason to do so. As long as the figure has a good grip on it, which he does, it'll keep it from being easily lost.
Coming as he does from the 2002 Masters of the Universe line, and not likely initially intended for figural treatment, although presumably designed to work with the general style of the Masters of the Universe concept at the time, which was admittedly more stylized and ornate than the original, The Faceless One has a fairly complex wardrobe. I would expect that it's not the easiest thing in the world to take these 2002-era characters, and work them into a line that takes a lot of its design cues from the original series. And honestly, in my opinion, the results have been a little mixed. Chief Carnivus works very well in my estimation. Count Marzo is a bit of a stretch, especially with regard to a somewhat overly-stylized headsculpt. The Faceless One actually works amazingly well, maintaining the costume elements of his original incarnation, and yet fitting into the action figure line quite smoothly.
The Faceless One has an ornate chestplate, that also includes shoulder ornamentation and a high collar in the back, that actually rises up over his head. This is mostly purple with black and near-white details. On the front, these almost look like stylized bones, as if a portion of a rib cage, with a jagged, circular frame rising up to support the high collar. The shoulder pieces are black with ornate purple outlines.
Attached to this is a cape, very jagged at the base, and fairly wide in its spread. It's actually comprised of three separate pieces, one of which is attached to the center piece, two to the shoulders. The cape is black, nicely made, decently flexible, and not at all "pre-posed". The entire works is assembled into a single piece that fits over the Faceless One's head, and is supported by his shoulders. It's heavy enough so that I think in real life a person would find it uncomfortable as heck, even if he had a well-muscled build.
The one unusual attribute about it is that it doesn't snap or strap into place. It just rests on the upper body of the figure. Thus, if you try to pick up the figure by grasping the chestplate and the back of the cape -- a not atypical means of picking up the action figure -- you're likely to come away with just the chest-and-shoulder piece and the cape, leaving a bare-torso'd Faceless One standing wherever you left him, and there's just enough facial expression on the headsculpt to make it appear as though he's giving you a dirty look, as if saying, "Do you MIND? Bring that back, thank you!"
For those that might find this an inconvenience, I'm afraid I can't think of any way to secure this on the figure without adversely affecting the figure.
Faceless One doesn't have the usual loincloth around the waist. He has a fairly ornate tunic or "skirt", which consists of a highly detailed black and purple belt, and angular panels draped from the belt, in black and a bright reddish-purple, outlined in purple, with some pale gray detailing on the front. To give you an idea of just how detailed Mattel is willing to get with these figures, please take note of the center black pieces on the front and back, and notice the very tiny little studs on each, that have been painted in copper. Now -- that's some serious attention to detail!
Faceless One is wearing purple boots, smooth-textured, not the usual "furry"-topped boots that a lot of characters wear, but rather tapering upwards in the front. His accessories, along with the Ram Stone, includes a recolored ram-headed staff, of the type usually wielded by Skeletor. It's purple, but the ram's horns are a translucent red-purple, as if giving off some sort of energy that Skeletor -- assuming it's the same staff somehow -- hadn't quite figured out how to use.
Of course, the figure is superbly articulated. Faceless One is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, boot tops, and ankles. The tunic is a slight hindrance to the leg articulation, but this isn't a guy who's inclined to do a lot of running and jumping anyway.
Now, let's consider the backstory as presented on the package card. It reads as follows:
THE FACELESS ONE
As the ruler of Zalesia, Nikolas Powers was entrusted by King Grayskull to guard the city's great magical objects - the Havoc Staff and the Mystical Ram Stone. Powers was a core member of Grayskull's Council of Elders, great mages from across Eternia who had the wisdom to tap into the planet's hidden magical secrets. But by marrying and having a daughter, he broke the Elders' treaty with King Hssss to not produce any heirs. Powers was stripped of his humanity, condemned never to leave Zalesia, and forced to watch his beloved city destroyed by Serpos. Now called "The Faceless One", he asked the wizard-warrior He-Ro to use the power of the Central Tower to send his daughter Evelyn into the future. There, with his immortality, he hoped to raise her away from the terror of the Great Wars.
Wow -- where to begin? Well, the reference to "The Central Tower" is a reference to the three-towered "Eternia" playset from the original Masters of the Universe line. I'm surprised it worked its way in here, because this is convoluted enough as it is.
Serpos is a serpent deity of the Snake-Men, which they actually managed to bring forth in the second season of the animated series. It had been trapped in the form of Snake Mountain, customarily Skeletor's home. And one has to assume that the housing inspectors of Eternia missed that little detail along the way. The story in the comic book is actually a prequel to that particular story, as the Snake-Men blackmail the Faceless One into giving them the means to bring Serpos back to life.
Then there's that name -- Nikolas Powers. Not the most -- Eternian-sounding name. And here we have to work in the original intended backstory of Evil-Lyn, whose real name has been listed on her file card as Evelyn Powers. Originally, it was planned that Evil-Lyn, like Queen Marlena, was an astronaut from Earth. She had been insanely jealous of Marlena for being chosen as the vessel's pilot over her, and following the incident that eventually brought Marlena to Eternia, the future Evil-Lyn wound up with Skeletor.
Although this story was never fleshed out, and probably can't be considered official canon, and there's never been anything to indicate that Evil-Lyn was anything other than a native Eternian, Evil-Lyn was given the real name of Evelyn Powers on her Classics bio card, so that had to be carried over to The Faceless One. I think the best way to explain this is to assume that somewhere on Eternia, there is a region where names are similar to those of Earth, at least North America. If you think about it, there's names on Earth that sound strange to English-speaking people, and vice-versa. And Eternia is certainly a world with a rather astounding variety of sentient species.
The rest of The Faceless One's backstory pretty well follows the story of his origin as presented in the comic book, and alluded to in the 2002 animated series, and I don't see any great need to question any of that. As to where his allegiance truly lies, I think that might be best summed up in a sequence from the comic book, when he briefly took He-Man into another realm, and He-Man asked him "Are you an ally?", and he replied, "Neither an ally nor an enemy. But perhaps... a friend." I'd say that's good enough.
So, what's my final word, after a review that as it turns out, wasn't quite as truncated as I thought it would be? I'm impressed. I always thought The Faceless One was an interesting character, and I was pleased when I heard that a figure of him was intended, even if I wondered how a figure of him would be possible given his very unusual appearance. But as always, Mattel and the Four Horsemen found a way. I believe that any established fan of the Masters of the Universe concept will be very pleased to add The Faceless One to their collection. Certainly I am.
The MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of THE FACELESS ONE definitely has my highest recommendation!