Palisades Army of Darkness

Sam Raimi, now the director of the blockbuster Spider-Man films, first hit with a little independent horror film called the Evil Dead.  This was a big deal to me and my friends because Raimi came from my home town of Ferndale, and attended, briefly, my alma mater, Michigan State.

Stephen King raved about the film, and that certainly helped it gain an audience.  The second film in the series was never a huge hit, but did well enough to bring on a third film, called the Army of Darkness.  In a rather unique twist, this film, a sequel, became the biggest of the series, with a huge fan following of it's campy goofiness.

We've gotten action figures from the film before from Mcfarlane Toys, and I have a funny suspicion that they still have the license for the 6" - 8" line tied up.  Palisades decided to do something very different, and go for a 4" line that was highly articulated.

They released a TON of figures in this first series, and I don't think I've ever done a review of so many figures in a single column.  There are actually seven two packs out right now I believe, but I may even be losing track.

There's Hero Ash with a Deadite Scout, the Pit Witch and a Deadite Centurion, Splitting Ash and a Deadite (exclusive to Previews), another Deadite with a Deadite Footsoldier, a Knight with a Deadite Skeleton (shared exclusive with Time and Space Toys and Gear 4 Games), and a Knight with a Deadite Pikeman.

There's also an exclusive Evil Ash and Deadite that you'll find at Media Play, Suncoast or Sam Goody.

The two packs retail for around $15 each.  As always, I have some suggestions for picking them up at the end of the review.  I'd like to thank Time and Space Toys for sending along this set for the review.

Packaging - ***1/2
Even though these figures are fairly small, Palisades stuck with the clamshell style of packaging.  You know how I love it, so it a good score should be no surprise.  Of course, it helps that the graphics are great as well.  The design pops, and there's a decent amount of text on the back.  The package is also designed to show off the figures and accessories, and let them sell themselves.

The clamshells will hold up to shipping and shelfwear, and should be pretty easy for MOCer's to store.

Sculpting - Any version of Ash **1/2; the Deadites and Knights ***1/2 
There has been a lot of talk that these figures look bad - I think people are being WAY too hard on them.  The sculpts, particularly on the Knights and Deadites, are excellent, with a ton of detail and crisp definition.

There is one issue that has to be addressed - Ash's head.  It appears as though they went for a cartoony, comic book look for Ash, and his head is clearly too large for his body. While there's no doubt that it's Bruce Campbell (at least in a 4" scale), it's more of a caricature of the man, rather than a realistic sculpt.  That tends to clash with the extreme realism of the rest of the line.  The work on the Deadites, skeletons and knights is not cartoony at all, with lots of great rotting flesh and bony evil all around.

It's interesting that this final head sculpt is also more cartoony, or at least larger, than the prototype version pictured on the front of the card.  Check out the Hero Ash set, and you'll see what I mean.  Perhaps this change was not the best move.

Of the various Ash figures, Hero Ash is the best.  Unfortunately, when you take two oversized heads and stick them together, like on Splitting Ash, you get one seriously funky looking character.

But this line is about more than just Ash - it's about those armies.  And the knights, skeletons and Deadites look amazing.  SOTA did a lot of this work, along with Bill Mancuso, and Hasbro needs to pay attention to what you can do in a 4" scale.

I think that the scale has a lot to do with the flak that Palisades has received over this line as well.  The smaller scale just isn't popular for a realistic line these days, and Star Wars and G.I. Joe probably get away with it out of nostalgia more than anything.  Rather than see just how good these are, people tend to immediately think "but they would have been so much better at 8 inches".

The other big issue that plagued this line was breakage, but I'll get to that in the articulation section.

Paint - ***1/2
The paint ops are great across the board, with excellent definition and clean lines, especially for such a small scale.

Again, the Deadites, knights and skeletons really get to show off the great paint work better than the Ash figures, since there's more small details to their outfits and bodies.  By using a variety of washes and color combinations, they've brought out the great detail of the sculpts, and given an additional level of realism to the appearance of bone, metal and flesh.

Articulation - ***1/2
Palisades was looking to make the most highly articulated 4" body on the market, and I'd say they did it.

Not every character has exactly the same level of articulation as every other, but they all follow the same general pattern.

All the figures have neck, ball jointed shoulders, ball jointed hips, waist, and double jointed knees.

The meatier Deadites include double jointed elbows, cut thighs, wrists, and cut biceps, as do the knights and Ash figures.

The knights also have ankle articulation, although it's fairly limited.  Overall, the amount of articulation is quite amazing, and I had no real trouble working with any of it.

The double jointed knees on the skeletons are really amazing, since they are so damn tiny, yet I had no trouble getting the joint to work.  Since each figure comes with a display stand, you can pose them in lots of gravity defying ways.

The first 10% or so of these figures had breakage issues.  Palisades actually delayed the release of the figures due to these issues, but some of the poorer quality figures still made it to market.  That meant that the early adopters were reporting back bleak tales of lots of broken parts.

This set is from the corrected 90% of the production run, and I'm happy to say that I didn't see any major problem, certainly not at the level of early reports where every figure broke somewhere.  I did have a wrist break on one Deadite, but even that one was partially due to my impatience.  I opened and played around with a couple dozen figures, and only had that one problem.

Trying to do something unique like this clearly meant there were growing pains, but it looks like Palisades managed to correct the issues.

However, there are joints that are designed to pop free to avoid breakage.  Both the shoulders and hips can pop off the pins if you push them too far, and this is not a problem, but intended.  You can simply pop the ball joint back on the pin pretty easily.

Accessories - ****
Palisades loaded these guys up with a wide range of ultra cool accessories.  Since I have about a billion pictures with this review, I might as well go ahead and list them all out:

Pit Witch/Deadite Centurion: Long sword, short sword, two daggers, a battle axe and a shield.  There's a display base for each as well.

Splitting Ash/Deadite: Dagger, Boomstick, Boomstick holster, Deadite sword, mace, shield, and Necronomicon.  Again, they each have a base.

I had a lot of trouble getting the holster to fit on the back of the Splitting Ash, and finally gave up.  However, the holster fit perfectly on the Hero Ash.  The Necronomicon looks amazing, and has one of the best small accessory sculpts I've seen in ages.

Knight/Deadite Skeleton: 2 shields, dagger, Deadite sword, regular sword, mace, flail, and some sort of gold pike/spear that's not mentioned on the package, interestingly enough. And two bases.

Deadite/Deadite Footsoldier: Deadite dagger, long sword, Deadite Axe, regular sword, and large wooden barricade.  As always, there's those two display bases. 

Knight/Deadite Pikeman: 2 shields, a dagger, Deadite axe, sword, and Deadite halberd.  With two display bases.

Hero Ash/Deadite Scout: another Necronomicon, Chemistry 101 book, cape (which is removable on Hero Ash, Boomstick, Boomstick holder, Deadite spear, Deadite shield, and two display bases.

What's it all mean?  That there are a ton of accessories with these sets, all designed for blood and mayhem.  The sculpts are great on all of them, although some of the plastics are a little soft.  They are nice and lightweight though, so even the wimpy skeleton arms can hold them up without topping over.  Some sport battle damage, and all of them can be held and used by the figures.  The sculpting and paint ops on them are solid all around, and the accessories are really one of the highlights of the line.

Fun Factor - ***
These guys are definitely fun, although the articulation might be a little too much for a smaller child.  They tend to take less care and have even less patience than an adult when it comes to bending and twisting, so I think breakage would be an issue for them.

But the accessories and designs do make these a lot of fun for the slightly older and wiser big kid, especially if they're big fans of the film.

Value - *1/2
The regular figures run between $7 and $8 each, which is a pretty steep price.  People remember that they paid about that for the Mcfarlane Ash (although he was far less articulated) at a whopping 7" tall.  The increased prices this year due to the shrinking retail scene is forcing companies like Palisades to push the market, and to see just what kind of price points it can bear.  They may have hit the ceiling with this line.

Right or wrong, people equate price with size, and smaller figures have a tough time selling in the same ball park as larger ones.  Star Wars figures were forced to drop back into the five dollar arena for a couple years, although we are seeing them go back up to the seven dollar range now with the new film approaching.  While Army of Darkness has a cult following, it's nothing like the fanaticism that surrounds Star Wars, and the fans may not be willing to fork over quite as much dough.

Overall - Knights, Deadites, Skeletons ***; any version of Ash **1/2
I think folks are being way too hard on these figures.  Okay, even I have to admit that Ash is a tad dorky looking, and of the set is really my least favorite figure.  And yes, they are a lot more green than I think a lot of Army of Darkness fans will be willing to spend.  But the line is a lot of fun, with some terrific sculpting and accessories, especially on the knights and Deadites.

Originally, I started off the review with a photo of Ash, since he is the man.  But after reviewing it, I swapped him out with the photo of the skeleton and his mace, because that is so much more representative of the line as a whole.

It appears as though Palisades has the biggest issue - the breakage problems - under control now, and I suspect we'll see them look to use this type of articulation and scale on a future line.  Price will continue to be the bane for them though, but I don't see that situation improving any time soon.

Things to Watch Out For - 
While I didn't have the extreme breakage problems that some folks did, I'd still recommend being careful when initially working the joints free.  Paint can cause them to stick, and when they are this tiny, it's pretty easy for you to force them.

Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpt - Any version of Ash **1/2; the Deadites and Knights ***1/2 
Paint - ***1/2
Articulation - ***1/2
Accessories - ****
Fun Factor - ***
Value - *1/2
Overall - Knights, Deadites, Skeletons ***; any version of Ash **1/2

Where to Buy - 
Time and Space Toys has a bunch of different deals on the various figures.  You can pick up their exclusive two pack for $20, or you can buy the full set of six two packs (everything except the Suncoast exclusive) for $90.  They also have a deal where you can buy three of their exclusive sets - perfect army builders of knights and skeletons - for just $54.  And if that's not good enough for you, and you want to build a huge army, you can get a case of the Knight/Skeleton two pack (that's twelve two packs!) for $168.  That's a lot of skeletons!

Keep scrolling down for lots and lots more photos - they just keep coming!

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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