Dragons series 5
Berserker Dragon

Series 5 of Mcfarlane Dragons are now hitting stores, and include the usual clans - Berserker, Water, Sorcerer, Eternal, Komodo with a deluxe version of Fire - but with a slight twist this time around. While past dragons have occasionally included humans in the diorama, this entire set has humans, as they've 'introduced the human plague!'. Included with each figure is also additional back story, giving you some idea of what's going on with this fateful meshing of species.

These are just hitting stores, including Toys R Us. Expect to pay around $13 at most retailers, unless you're lucky enough (and patient enough) to have a Meijers around. They should get them eventually, and are closer to ten bucks retail.

Packaging - ***
There's nothing surprising here if you're a regular Mcfarlane collector. Clamshells, which I prefer over backer/bubble packaging, with attractive but not extreme graphics. I do find it tough to differentiate one series from another on the pegs, so they need to make the series numbers easier to find. I picked this guy up at a TRU where they still had series 3 and 4 mixed in, and it would have been helpful had the series numbers been clearly showing along one side or the bottom.

There's also some additional dragon back story included in the interior of the insert, but hopefully you aren't buying these for the story. It's a nice touch, but there still aren't any assembly instructions. Hey, I'm not talking about something complicated, but they could throw in a couple line drawings showing the attachment of the chain and the placement of his feet.

Sculpting - **1/2
It's quite possible that your assessment of the sculpt of this figure will be wildly different than mine. The reason for this is that my low score has nothing to do with the basic quality of the sculpt, but rather more aesthetic issues.

The general quality of the sculpt on 90% of this overall figure/diorama is fantastic. The dragon himself is almost a work of art, with finely crafted scales, varying textures between the body and wings, sinewy ligaments between the jaws, and an excellent looking rock base with appropriate shrubbery. There's a few inconsistencies, like where the lower jaw and neck meet. The lower jaw is heavily scaled, and yet right at the point where the cut joint breaks through the sculpt, the texture changes drastically to smoother skin. It's unusual to see this kind of abrupt change in a Mcfarlane figure, where smooth transitions are more common.

This poor Berserker Dragon is being captured by several humans, burly little men with chains attached to his collar, and I like the general concept and design. The agony he's in is clearly on his face, but I have to admit that I'm not quite sure why he wouldn't just crush them under a paw, or slap them with his tail, since they are within easy crunching distance. And how can only five little guys hold down a dragon of this size?

I can ignore that minor flaw in the design, however. What I can't ignore is the scale of these humans. Past waves have occasionally featured humans, either as knights, handlers or riders. And those past humans were at least TWICE the size of these new humans. Clearly, the folks at Mcfarlane have decided that while the dragons should still be 6" in scale, the humans needed to be much smaller to make them more impressive. In essence, they've altered the overall scale of the line, not by changing the size of the figure itself, but by changing the size of the props around it.

I have two major problems with this. First, it makes displaying these dragons with any of the previous ones that included humans a pretty weird set up. I haven't complained a lot about this line not being in scale with other lines - I'm not as much of a stickler around such things as some folks. But I do have a real issue with figures in a specific line not being in scale with each other. I'm not happy when Batman is taller than Superman in the same line from DC Direct, and I'm not happy when my Beserker Dragon in series 5 is out of scale with my Deluxe Komodo Dragon from series 4. The funny thing about this line is that you could make the dragons bigger and smaller and still claim they were in the same 'scale' - who's to say one type of dragon isn't much larger or smaller? But by altering the humans, who are clearly not going to be vastly different in size, you've screwed up the scale far worse than if you'd simply altered the dragons themselves.

The other major problem I have with making the humans this small is that they look bad. It's impossible to make great looking figures this tiny in this price range - it's just not going to happen. So I have an amazing looking dragon with a very detailed sculpt, and five little stumpy muscle men standing around him with much softer sculpts. Why? Because they're so damn tiny. You can get away with rocks and stumps having fairly basic sculpts - dude, their just rocks and stumps. Even a little detail goes a long way, since in real life we don't notice much of the detail anyway unless we get up very close. But these are people, and people tend to draw your eye and create an expectation in your brain for detail. And in this scale you just aren't going to be able to pull it off.

Another example of this small scale causing issues with detail is in the goofy looking rings that each of the figures is holding. These rings are clearly intended for them to handle the chains on the dragon. Yet, not only are they clumpy looking dollar store sculpts, the chain itself is only attached to the front ring. Yep, the second ring they are holding is just hanging out there in space, looking silly.

The chains themselves are real metal which is a nice touch. The design of the dragon and base doesn't allow for much error though, and you'll have to be very careful attaching the collar. I was very careful, knowing that it was clearly an issue, and I still managed to break the metal connecting ring on one of the tighter chains. It's fixable, but you'd rather not have to do that.

The other plus worth mentioning is that the pegs are in the base (and are steel) instead of in the dragon's feet. This hasn't always been the case with this line, with some of the dragons in past waves having the pegs on their feet, with holes in the base. That means you can't do much with the dragon without the base, but here you can actually use one without the other.

Paint - ***
The paint work mirrors the sculpt, having the same pros (the dragon and base look fantastic) and cons (the quality of the paint on such small people is never going to be as good). The paint detail on the dragon is quite impressive, with a nice use of a wide variety of colors. Just like with the sculpt though, there's some weird color transitions (again, look at the transition from the jaw to the neck), and some of the colors aren't quite as consistent from piece to piece as I expect from Mcfarlane. For example, the left leg is a distinctly lighter green than the body - that's something you normally don't see from them.

But the real paint issues are with the miniscule humans, where the paint tends to look gloppy and thick. There's no real detail here of course, because at this scale there simply can't be. The overall effect is that the small humans cheapen the impact of the entire diorama, making it much less impressive than past waves. 

Articulation - **
This dragon is no different than the past other 29 - he's not designed for multiple poses. There's a cut neck joint, cut hips, and a cut shoulder on the left front leg. These joints will allow you to get him in the right pose on the diorama go get the chain to fit, and that's about it. His best point of articulation is his tail, which is bendy. You can pose it in a number of ways, including slapping a couple of these itty bitty girly men holding the chains.

Accessories - Bupkis
No real surprise there, and not something I'll be holding against the set, but I'm not counting anything as accessories. In reality, you might count the base, since the dragon doesn't HAVE to be placed on it. The steel pegs are in the base, not his feet, so he can be removed and posed elsewhere.

Fun Factor - **
These aren't really designed to be 'fun'. They're designed for dragon collectors, who are just like Hummel collectors, but with better tattoos.

Still, kids in the 8 - 10 range who like fantasy properties will enjoy them, although the introduction of the itty bitty manly men hurts they're ability to be included with other figures of larger scales.

Value - **
Thirteen bucks a pop? So if I buy a full set of these, plus the deluxe figure…let's see, carry the two, divide by seven, calculate the differential…I've just spent between $90 and $100 depending on shipping and tax! While these are nice figures, they aren't specialty market quality, particularly with the introduction of the stubby, goofy little people. If there's one or two you're interested in, the fact that these are $2 - $3 overpriced isn't going to matter a whole lot, but if you're buying the full wave, I feel for you.

Things to Watch Out For - 
Obviously, you want to be mighty careful with the chains on this guy. Don't try to stretch the chains to fit him, but rather smoosh him down in his stance on the base to get his neck lower.

Overall - **1/2
Am I being too hard on this figure? Obviously, I decided I wasn't. While the purely technical aspects of most of the sculpt and paint were good (although not completely free of issues), the figure would still only get three stars. Add in the silly little people, and you end up losing another half star. I may still pick up the Water Dragon, if I decide to display it independently, and I want to see the Fire Dragon deluxe figure, since he appears to be so much larger than the rest of the line. But in general I agree with Mcfarlane - these humans are definitely a 'plague'. And that's not a good thing for this wave.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***
Sculpt -  **1/2
Paint - ***
Articulation - **
Accessories - Bupkis
Value -  **
Fun Factor - **
Overall - **1/2

Where to Buy -
Toys R Us is getting these in, but at $13 a pop. I'm betting Meijers will get them eventually, at a more reasonable $10 or $11, but you may have to wait awhile. Online options include:

- Clark Toys has a great price on the singles at just $10 each, with the exception of the Sorcerer who you can only buy as part of the set of 5 for $65. They also have the boxed set at $25.

- Killer Toys has the full set of five for $55, but it's still listed as a pre-order. They also have the deluxe Fire Clan listed at $22.

- CornerStoreComics has them in at $12 for the singles, $59 for the set of 5, and $24 for the deluxe set. 

- Amazing Toyz has the singles for $12 to $13 each, the set at $59, and the deluxe at $23. 

- YouBuyNow has the singles at $15, or the deluxe at $29. 

- and if you're in the U.K., Forbidden Planet has the singles at 12 pounds each. 

Related Links -
I've reviewed several of the previous Dragons: 

- I did the full set of wave 4, along with the wave 4 deluxe figure.

- I also reviewed the deluxe figure from wave 1, and had a guest review of the rest of wave 1.

- and if you like cool dragons, then you should check out the Hungarian Horntail Dragon from Gentle Giant, based on the Harry Potter film.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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