NECA’s Anniversary Dark Horse Predator Stands Out in the Concrete Jungle [Review]
In 1987, 20th Century Fox introduced the world to the Predator in one of the most memorable action films of Arnold Schwarzenegger's career. I wouldn't see the movie until a few years after it's release on cable at a sleepover, but the impression it made was instant.
In 1989, Dark Horse brought the alien hunters to the masses through the first of many mini-series, Concrete Jungle. The four-issue series actually focused on the brother of Schwarzenegger's Dutch Schaffer, a New York police detective working the narcotics division. Even all these years later, the cover to the first issue is still a bold and memorable one, which was a hallmark of DHP's Predator books way back when. Since those earliest Predator stories, the franchise has stuck with fans, and the tribal aliens have appeared in a variety of forms over the years.
These comics, which arrived on the scene before Danny Glover and Predator 2, were the first time we learned there could be more than one of these ugly mother f---ers out there. Dark Horse's books continued expanding on the universe of the Yautja over the years, building a deep history for the alien race, and even helping inspire a bit of cross-pollination with the Alien franchise (also at 20th Century Fox and Dark Horse). Still, Concrete Jungle, which acted as a direct sequel of sorts to the original film remains one of the most important. Now, in celebration of the 25th anniversary Dark Horse's first Predator comics, NECA's released a special version of the iconic hunter commemorating that stunning cover.
While it seems like a comic book tie-in is a prerequisite for a film existing these days, licensed film comics that expanded on the original weren't quite so common twenty-five years ago. Sure you had the occasional foray into comics from movie studios, but you were more likely to find a direct adaptation than you were wholly original adventures when Concrete Jungle was released. Additionally, at the time of Predator's initial popularity, kids weren't allowed to see the movie, but they were sure allowed to beg for the toys based on the R-rated franchise. Kenner released a few waves of Predator figures back in the '90s (as they also did with Alien), but after 1996, Yautja toys were few and far between until NECA revived the license in conjunction with the film, Predators.
While the first line was based on the mildly-received Adrian Brody feature, the years since have seen the line cover almost all the classic forms of the Yautja, including more than a few Kenner-inspired pieces. We even got a few Dark Horse Predators before, but this is the first time NECA is covering the ground laid by Mark Verheiden and Chris Warner in Concrete Jungle. This figure takes inspiration from NECA's recent retro gaming line, which offers modern-style figures (high articulation, loads of accessories) with paint apps inspired by 8- and 16-bit video games. However, rather than coming in the more familiar clam shell or blister pack, the boxes are based on the original video game packaging.
Like those gaming figures, the Concrete Jungle Predator comes in a large box with windowed display. The front replicates the cover to the first issue, and opening the fold reveals both the figure version in a similar pose and a lining of art from the comic itself. It's a bit larger than the retro game boxes, which makes it a bit harder to display mint-in-box. I typically keep all the video game figures in the box (the only figures I never open) as the package is part of the aesthetic. Here though, even though I was taking this figure out to review it, I would have taken it out anyway as I don't have a shelf with enough room to properly show it off in the box. It's a shame to discard such nice packaging almost immediately, as a lot clearly went into how this was supposed to look. C'est la vie.
Out of the box, the new Predator shares even more similarities with the video game version. It's basically the same figure (sculpted by Kyle Windrix and Jason Frailey), with all the same articulation and design, save for different hands. Not that there's anything wrong with that, per se. Lots of the Predator figures have reused similar parts and pieces, and that's part of the reason the line has been able to continue for so long. NECA hasn't had to craft much new tooling for every line, though there are differences in the majority of the pieces. Neither of the previously released Dark Horse Preds have much in common with Concrete Jungle, so just in that variation in the series, there's variety. Still, it is worth noting that the armor and helmet, as well as the shoulder cannon, have all been seen before, just not with this paint app.
That very paint app is the main draw of this latest Predator, and again, another way in which this figure was inspired by the retro game line. Rather than basing the Concrete Jungle Predator on his appearance inside the story (of which a mini-version of the first issue is included), this figure is based solely on the cover image. The interior version isn't bad, it's just rather standard, and lacks the imagination in design of the Predator on the cover. NECA's paint app (by Jon Wardell and Geoffrey Trapp) perfectly captures the bold cover image (colored by Chris Chalenor) amazingly well. The only real flaw is that the claws could be a bit bluer and not as gray. Other than that, this figure matches the Dark Horse book beat for beat. It's not surprising given how well NECA's done that in the past, but it's still a remarkable feat in the current action figure climate.
There are a few disadvantages of such an accurate colorway though. The back is completely black and red, which while accurate, limits the ways you can pose the figure. Most collectors will likely have it facing forward in their collections anyway, but by sticking so closely to the cover, NECA's effectively eliminated 180 degrees of posing. The shoulder cannon looks nice, but it too gets in the way of posing just a bit. The Predator has so many dreadlocks, it's hard to fully rotate his head when the shoulder gun is mounted.
NECA's released dozens of Predators over the last five years, but with the line growing so large in that time, it's really taken some creative risks with the line. The 25th Anniversary Dark Horse Predator is one of the gambles, and it really paid off. It's a great looking piece, and one that is immediately distinguishable from the rest of the line. Whether you've only dabbled in collecting these figures, or are a devout Yautja follower, this Predator is a worthwhile addition. I only hope NECA has more equally creative ideas for the series in mind moving forward as a way to keep it fresh.