Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Review: Power Ghouls - Spectra Vondergeist as Polterghoul

Just eight months ago the only Spectra doll available was her basic release, a doll we'd had for nearly a year at that point. Now it's January 2013 and we've just gotten Spectra's fifth doll, with at least two more on the way this year. I don't know if there's a method to Mattel's madness when it comes to choosing which characters will get a lot of doll releases. 2012 was a big year for Abbey Bominable as we saw doll after doll after doll of her; all the while poor Spectra sat waiting in the wings. Now it seems as though Mattel is making up for lost time with Spectra, as the doll I'm covering today is technically her third 2013 release. One look at her box art should tip you off as to whether this doll is a keeper or not...

If you've read my Wonder Wolf review you already know I'm a big fan of the Power Ghouls line, both in theory and execution. I love seeing the Monster High characters reinvented in new, unexpected ways. With Power Ghouls we are treated to some of our favorite ghouls taking on a superhero alter ego. The dolls look great and the whole idea in general is just plain fun! The icing on the cake is the fact that each Power Ghoul doll comes with a comic book. These are basically crack for a doll collecting nerd like me!

In Spectra's case we learn that her role as school gossip is just a cover for her higher calling: that of Polterghoul, a superhero who protects the world from the evil Cat Tastrophe. Polterghoul's comic is an origin story so I won't give too much away here. What I will say is this story, short as it may be, is rather incredible. It carries a darker, deeper message than Wonder Wolf's story, with higher stakes and a more interesting set up. It even touches on elements of the metaphysical -- very cool. It opens on a levitating Spectra deep in meditation and ends on an abrupt, mysterious note, teeming with symbolic eroticism. I'm not even joking. There goes Mattel being all sneaky and subversive again. You devils, you! If fleshed out just a little I could see this story working as a stand alone graphic novel. It could tell the same story told in this small comic, but with more details. Considering Mattel already has Monster High represented in YA novel form, why not release a one-off graphic novel? How awesome would that be?! In any case, suffice it to say I love the Polterghoul mythology presented here and would totally be into reading more about her.

Polterghoul comes in the box "floating" above a large, Cathedral-like clock. We're told she is "The Justice That Goes Bump In The Night." The entire box back is presented as a Gory Gazette article detailing one of her heroic exploits. It's really quite fun and humorous in a punny way.

But wait a minute, there's a doll here too! Let's talk about her, shall we?

Right away the thing that immediately stands out about this doll is her face. Taking a cue from the Ghost Girl CAM add-on, Polterghoul has a "mask" painted onto her face that surrounds her eyes and wraps around to her temples. In Polterghoul's case the mask is hot pink. I'm not sure what these masks have to do with ghosts but it's certainly an arresting look, and it works extremely well on this character. Her eyes are dark purple while the pupils are a combination of more dark purple and turquoise. She has a thin strip of shimmering light pink eyeliner above each eye. Above this is a dark pink divider line. The hot pink mask works as her eyeshadow. Her pouting lips are a deep, shimmering magenta. She's incredibly beautiful, and her eyes have that surreal, eerie glow we love so much with this character. The only thing missing are the cheekbones, but we'll come back to that later.

Polterghoul's hair utilizes the standard Spectra colors of lavender and purple; the colors are evenly mixed. She has no part. Instead the hair is pulled straight back and held in place by a headband. As always, the hair is incredibly soft and silky. I think Spectra may have the best hair in general of any of the dolls. And it's consistently good, too. With Spectra you always know what you're gonna get (and I mean that in the good way). On Polterghoul it's straight and lands just below her rear.

Her superhero outfit is a one piece, sleeveless dress utilizing silver ribbon around the neckline and armholes. The bottom of the skirt is hemmed with matching silver thread. The fabric is black with grey dots and has a print of hot pink "starbursts". The stripes of the bursts are broken and uneven, adding some "edge" to the look. Printed over the bust is a silver skullette. Wonder Wolf also had a skullette on her jumpsuit so maybe this logo represents a unified team rather than a solo superhero. I have a feeling we'll find out when Voltageous and Cat Tastrophe hit shelves.

Around her waist is a belt of silver, twisting chains. Hanging from the belt to her left is a large ball. These chains match her silver, knee high platform boots. Pink chains form the top of the boots before wrapping the body of each one, eventually landing at her feet where they form both the platforms and heels.

In addition to the previously mentioned headband, Polterghoul wears dangling pink earrings featuring comic book bursts with a tiny skullette in the center. Wonder Wolf wore these same earrings, in non-dangling form, plus she also had the aforementioned skullette on her suit. I'm definitely digging these unifying features among the Power Ghouls dolls. If memory serves me correctly Voltageous also wears comic burst earrings and has a skullette on her outfit. I've a feeling these three ghouls are all part of the same team.

Polterghoul wears one last piece of equipment, a piece that I think is safe to say is her trademark. Wrapped around her neck is a choker of pink chains. This alone would look very cool, but the choker is attached to a larger piece that works as a sort of minimalist cape. Dangling from the back of the choker are six ropes of chains -- three attach at the other end to a cuff on her left wrist while the remaining three go the opposite direction to a cuff on her right wrist. The lowest string on each side has six more chain ropes hanging from it, each ending with a hoop. In the comic book this deconstructed chain cape works as a weapon of sorts, combining with Polterghoul's superhuman strength and powers of telekinesis to move large objects out of her way. On the doll the cape is solid pink and the plastic used for it is semi-pliable. At first it can be a bit tough to pose her arms since they're held by the cuffs at her wrists. Once you get the hang of it there are all kinds of cool poses this doll can strike! Since the plastic is a bit stiff, when you bend her arms the chains bow outward -- a very dramatic look that emphasizes her superheroic powers. Stretch her arms out and upward and suddenly she becomes more of a ghostly figure, which plays perfectly into Spectra's non-superhero character. The chain cape is yet another uniquely Monster High accessory, something you won't find anywhere else. I really love it.

The last thing I want to cover is Polterghoul's facemold. Why? Because even though it uses the new, wider mold, the same mold Picture Day Spectra failed to sell me on, I love it here! In fact, I think Polterghoul is my favorite Spectra release since her basic doll! This really confused me at first -- why would it not work for me on the Picture Day doll, yet I love it so much here? I put the dolls side by side and realized what it was. Even though Polterghoul doesn't have the fierce cheekbones I love so much, she does have the spooky eyes. And that's really what it comes down to. Picture Day Spectra's eyes are bigger, lighter, and more human looking. Every other Spectra doll, including Polterghoul, has the smaller, darker, much more ghostly eyes. Would I like to have the cheekbones on Polterghoul? Of course! But I feel as it is this doll is a nice compromise between the two looks, giving us the eerie eyes and pouty lips while still looking younger than the basic doll, which is what Mattel was probably going for when they changed the facemold. Check out the comparison shots...

I decided to take it a step further and compare all the Spectra dolls to each other. Curiously, looking at them all side by side, it seems Mattel may have been subtly tweaking Spectra's facemold all along. Even Polterghoul seems to have a slimmer jawline than Picture Day Spectra. Ghouls Alive Spectra's odd face makes the most sense, since there's a speaker hidden inside that noggin. Anyway, I just thought it was interesting.

Overall grade A+ As I mentioned, this is probably my favorite Spectra doll after her basic release. When I say that, I'm speaking specifically about the actual doll, not her clothes. While I like Polterghoul's outfit (especially her wicked chain cape), it's not my favorite of the Spectra costumes (that honor goes to Picture Day Spectra's clothing, ironically enough). I love Polterghoul's face so much! She has those wonderfully creepy eyes, and the pink bandanna "sunburn" is a unique, attention-grabbing effect. The Polterghoul origin story is fascinating, drenched as it is in mystery and mysticism. The comic book itself is full of gorgeous art. I'd love to see the story explored more in-depth as a graphic novel. As for the doll: she's beautiful, she's spooky, she's the perfect combination of ghost and superhero.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Voicething Returns! ... to talk about a car.

Bonjour, readers! Your eyes do not deceive you -- I really am back! With a new review and scans and pictures and everything! Why the long absence? Without going into too much boring detail I had a one-two whammy of family stuff combined with an extra heavy workload. What little time I had away from work was spent lulling myself to sleep each night watching Brian De Palma and Val Lewton flicks. Luckily the work stuff was temporary and I'm back to my usual schedule. And that means we can convene with our regularly scheduled blogging! An unfortunate casualty in all this is the Clawdeen Extravaganza, which was supposed to happen this month. Response to the extravaganza was muted anyway, so I suppose it's no big loss. I have to admit I was hoping to return with a review of Catrine DeMew but alas, her purple perfection has evaded me so far. Dot Dead Gorgeous 3-Packs and Ghouls Rule Abbey came in droves, and quite quickly, but the doll I actually want more than oxygen itself is a very elusive creature. I can't even find any of the new swim dolls to serve as a consolation. There is much sadface here at Voicething headquarters at the moment because of this. But the show must go on! And what we're covering today is pretty cool, especially if you like convertibles...

You're doing it wrong, Frankie.

For their second MH car (after Draculaura's Roadster), Mattel kept things succinct, labeling this one simply Convertible. It comes in a large window box showing off the car and features cardboard cutouts of Frankie and Rochelle sitting inside it.

The box back features a large drawing of the convertible being driven by Ghoulia with Frankie riding shotgun and Rochelle sitting on the back (quite literally... we'll get to that). Clawdeen is standing nearby, so near in fact that she looks in danger of becoming a vehicular homicide statistic. Given the car's color scheme and wrought iron decor I assumed this was Rochelle's ride, but a quick read of the supplied blurb reveals that the convertible was in fact a POS that Ghoulia found and restored. First the scooter, now the convertible -- Ghoulia sure loves her some wheels, doesn't she?

The convertible comes in a nice dark lavender (well, purple) shade, with touches of grey, black, and silver. The basic idea behind the design seems to be wrought iron and webs, and lots of it. Not that I'm complaining; this baby looks pretty damn cool. The hood, the sides, and the rear all have curling, fanciful designs molded into them. In places the designs have been cut out of the plastic completely, creating a peek-a-boo effect with the car's nonexistent innards. At times these cutouts flow naturally with the molded designs while at others they're overlapped on the molding creating a nice contrast.

The hood of the car features a small skullette in the center front and is flanked by clear headlights. The headlights have a curlicued web design that matches the rest of the car's detailing. I like them quite a bit but wish they lit up -- how cool would that be! Below the hood at the very front of the car is a grill of silver webs, a nice touch. Underneath it is more molded detailing.

The car doesn't have working doors. Where the doors would be is more molded detailing combined with swooshy cutouts. They start at the bottom of the vehicle's body and work their way up over each back wheel, getting smaller as they progress backwards.

The back of the convertible is where things really get interesting. Surprisingly, this tiny little car seats four. Two in the front, two in the back on top of what is ostensibly the trunk. I have a feeling this seating arrangement makes this car officially not street legal. But who cares, the dolls look great sitting here. It's even wing and dragon tail compatible. And at least they threw some seatbelts back there, just in case. Seriously though, I was surprised how well my dolls sat on this uniquely placed seat. And as I've mentioned in previous playset reviews, if nothing else this gives your stand-less dolls a place to rest, and look good doing it.

Jinafire, why you gotta go and steal Rochelle's thunder, looking all cool and fierce and stuff.

The trunk/seat has a molded spiderweb pattern; lift it up and you'll find a skullette inside. A sticker license plate bares the word SCARIS in red and white. It's awfully cute, but my very favorite thing about this car is the taillights. Check 'em out -- they're silver dragon (or gargoyle?) heads! And with those glaring eyes and snarled grins, they ain't the friendliest-looking things, either. So cool! 

The inside of the car has two purple bucket seats, a teal steering wheel and matching seatbelts. There's a fairly large console that has a working gearshift in teal and two drink holders. There's also a display that looks like something straight out of the 60's Batman TV show -- it's weird and anachronistic and I love it. The dashboard is solid black and has more molded cobwebs.

The windshield is clear, of course, and is held in place by metallic silver, curlicued plastic. I love the design in particular here -- it reminds me of Operetta's deluxe fashion pack mask for some reason. There's also a black roll bar decorated with more wrought iron. You'll notice this car is a convertible in name only -- it has no top to convert. This makes sense as I imagine that would've been a manufacturing nightmare, but how cool if they could've somehow pulled it off. Oh well. All four wheels have shiny rims of wrought iron centered by a skullette -- flashy!

Overall grade A I have one complaint about the Scaris Convertible -- the dolls sit way too low in the bucket seats! Seriously, it looks like grandma's out for a drive, the doll's heads rest so low when seated. All you can see are the tops of their heads. It took some finagling to get my dolls to sit down just right without sinking too low so I could get these pictures. Other than that the Scaris car is pretty great. I love the design, the colors sync up well with the cafe cart playset, and it has some nice little touches (the working gear shift, the headlights, the mag wheels). The dragon/gargoyle taillights in particular are way cool. The trunk seats in the back may not be legal but they work great and show off your dolls well, especially compared to the deep bucket seats up front, which seem to be on a mission to hide your dolls from the world. At the very least this is a step up from the roadster, which I only got because I wanted the Draculaura doll that came with the re-release. The Scaris Convertible, however, sells itself. No doll necessary.