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.


  1. "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."

    I read Polterghoul's comic book over and over again and still can't find/understand this symbolic eroticism you are talking about! You say that sometimes Mattel add subtle things that are aimed towards adults, but I am an adult collector as well and do not see these things. I know this may be a weird question, but please tell me your thoughts because I'm still puzzled over it.

    1. What I'm talking about here is just in that last, small panel, on the last page of the comic. Spectra is standing next to who I'm assuming is DF Ghoulia, looking into a sort of vortex. It's this final drawing that definitely has some visual symbolism going on. Nothing overt, of course. This kind of symbolism has appeared in comic books for decades. Not even most adults pick up on it, but if you're into symbolism it stands out. I definitely wouldn't say what I'm talking about in this case is *aimed* at adults, it's just a piece of art. So much art works on both literal and symbolic levels, especially comic art.

  2. I think this version of Spectra would have benefitted from the darker, more vibrant hair colour of her Ghoul's Night Out doll.
    Having said that, I still think she's pretty awesome.

    If I had the Power Ghouls dolls, I'd probably leave them in the box. They're already posed so dramatically & the box artwork just looks so cool.

    1. I'm so coveting GNO Spectra at the moment! Can't wait til she hits my local shelves. She's really something!

      I love the way the dolls were posed in the boxes -- very fitting for their superhero theme. But it's virtually impossible for me to leave a doll in the box!

  3. i agree with you... this line is one of my favorites to date !! it is really bugging me that i wont have the chance to have DF ghoulia and PG wydowna to add to it, but i cant wait to see the continuation of the story but really when you think about it PG wydowna is in PG spectras comic stealing the collar of chaos and i think to actually get the whole story you have to have PG wydowna because in the comics thus far DF ghoulia is gathering everyone together for a major and cool event !! it is very smart of mattel (advertising wise) to release special exclusives for SDCC because it creates that hype but all in all wouldn't mattel benefit more from a wide release of these dolls because in this situation mattel is only getting money from the scalpers and the select few and then the scalpers are the ones making the money so where does mattel benefit in that ? anyways i have noticed that mattel has made one super hero PG and one villain PG an SDCC exclusive !! VERY SMART it makes you buy the others in that PG line and then wish you had the exclusives to complete the group !!

    1. I usually don't understand Mattel's tactics and can't even pretend to lol. I guess they have their reasons but I agree, Webarella should be a wide release. I still think Mattel should release a graphic novel telling Polterghoul's story -- I'd so be into that! They could use it to tie all the Power Ghouls stories together and flesh out the alternate universe they've created in the PG comics.