Harry Potter series 3
Harry, Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange

With all the highly anticipated big blockbuster movies hitting in 2008 (and their corresponding toy lines of course), I kind of lost track of a perennial favorite - Harry Potter. The next film based on The Half Blood Prince is hitting in November, just in time for the holidays.

NECA is continuing their excellent line of figures, as well. Okay, so not every figure they've released has been excellent, but much like their Nightmare Before Christmas line, this series is one that stands better as a whole rather than as individual parts. There have been exceptional single figures though, including Dumbledore, Hagrid, and the second release of Snape (with the improved paint job).

The third series for Order of the Phoenix has just begun to ship, and includes a new Harry, Lucius Malfoy, and Bellatrix Lestrange. Still to come this year (shown at Toy Fair) are another Harry, another Dumbledore, the Weasley twins, and a terrific Mad Eye Moody. They will also be doing figures for Half Blood Prince, which we'll probably see prototypes of at SDCC.

These figures run around $15 a pop, depending on the retailer. There ain't nothing cheap these days.

Packaging - ***
The packages follow the standard set by previous waves. Nothing earth shattering here, and the older style clamshells might seem a bit dated at this point. But they do show off the figures well, and they are certainly resistant to peg wear.

Sculpting - Malfoy ****; Harry ***; Bellatrix **1/2
The sculpts on all three of these are in the top half of the figures released so far by NECA.  Well, at least the head sculpts.

Harry is a bit pudgy in the face to my eyes, but this is the slightly older version, and they've nailed both the hair and the glasses.  These are perhaps the first Harry glasses we've gotten that actually look in scale.  They are still a smidge large in photos, but in person they look quite good on his face.

His sculpted pose works pretty well too, since he's facing off against the dark wizards.  He can stand great on his own, but there really is only one pose for him.

Malfoy is the best of the three, and one of my favorites of the line so far.  He can stand fine on his own, and can actually take three or four excellent poses because of the sculpted hands.  They can hold the cane and wand in very effective and dramatic ways, allowing you to get a lot more out of this figure than most of the others, at least in terms of posability.  The robes are removable if you want to go through enough effort (I didn't), and the outfit underneath looks good.

His head sculpt is also quite accurate, although again he looks just a smidge pudgy to me.  The sardonic expression matches with the gleeful evil of the character as he is about to blast Harry, too.

I also like the Bellatrix sculpt, although from the score it doesn't appear so.  She has wonderful wild hair, with extensions sculpted in softer plastic.  The eyes are insane, with the Elvis curled lip present.  You can even see the small teeth inside her mouth!

She's the most pre-posed, with her hands sculpted in an attack mode.  But what happened to her left foot?  I have a photo in the review that shows it all too well.  The foot angles up oddly, and I can't figure out what went wrong.  There's a cut joint at the top of the boot, but there doesn't appear to be anything wrong with the angle of the calf or foot itself.  The knee underneath the skirt is turned in the right direction, and fits under the fold just where it's supposed to be.  So why is the foot out at such an awful angle?  Hell if I know, but it really messes up what otherwise would be a solid figure, on par with Sirius Black.

Paint - Malfoy ***1/2; Harry, Bellatrix ***
Unfortunately with figures in this scale, particularly ones with lots of paint operations, close up photos rarely do them justice.  The issue of course is that you can see the blibs and blobs far better with the lens of the camera than with the nekkid eye.

In this set, Bellatrix takes the worst hit up close.  However, in person she looks quite a bit better.  The wild eyes, curled lip and sharp eyebrows all look quite good in person.  There's a little slop on the face though, particularly around the mouth.  On the plus side, they went with the gloss for her eyes, giving them more life.

She also has a nice highlighting on the wild hair, and the smaller details of her costume are fairly clean.  Of the three, she had the most issues with slop, but nothing extreme.  Just keep it in mind when you're picking her out on the shelf.

Harry had a few slops around the face as well, but his costume - street clothes - are very cleanly done.  They used a wash and some dry brushing to give them a weathered, shadowed look, and it works fairly well, without being too obtrusive.

His sloppiest areas are on the hands and face.  You can see a big black dot on his left hand, as well as some poor cut lines on the glasses.  We learn in the movie that his glasses are both black and silver this time, and NECA has gone out of their way to match that.  But in this scale, it's quite tough to pull off.

Of the three, I thought Malfoy's paint job was the best.  The translucent plastic hair is covered with a thin white paint, giving it a very bright white look in person.  His eyes are very well done, looking slightly to the side and thankfully, both looking in the same spot.  The clothing has only a few details, but those are done quite well, and the best work is saved for the extra head.  The brass or bronze appearing mask looks fantastic, with just the right amount of weathering.  On the extra head, the hair is simply blonde, rather than the very white translucent look of the regular head.

Articulation - Malfoy **1/2; Harry **; Bellatrix *1/2
As with the previous figures in the line, none of these are super articulated. They aren't quite Nerd Hummels though either.

Except for Bellatrix. She is very close to a Nerd Hummel, with a ball jointed neck (restricted quite a bit by her funky hair), cut wrists, waist joint, and cut joints at the top of the boots. There might also be a cut joint up at the thigh, but I couldn't get enough leverage to test it.

I already mentioned her weird left foot, sticking out at an odd angle. No matter how I worked with the limited articulation, I couldn't get it into any sort of reasonable position.

Malfoy has the best articulation of the group, and takes the best poses because of it. He has a ball jointed neck (also slightly restricted by the hair), NECA ball jointed shoulders, cut elbows and wrists, a cut waist and cut calves. You won't be doing a whole lot with the leg and waist articulation unless you remove his robes, but the arm articulation is crucial. The joints allow you to pose him with the cane and wand in a number of very cool ways. The hand sculpts also help in this regard, making him one of the more dynamic appearing figures on the shelf.

Harry falls someplace in between. His articulation is really designed to allow him to have one pose, but to do that pose really well. He has a ball jointed neck (with the best movement of the three), a NECA ball left shoulder but a cut right shoulder, cut elbows and wrists, and a cut waist. The waist is almost complete restricted due to the sculpt though, so you'll be working mostly with the neck and arms.

Both Harry and Malfoy lose some points here because of gaping, especially at the elbows. The joints seem a bit weak there, and the gaping hurts the appearance what would be otherwise perfect poses.

Accessories - Malfoy ***1/2; Harry ***; Bellatrix **
Bellatrix is the lightest in this category, with just her display stand (which you'll need) and her personal wand. I do love that NECA has taken the time and effort to give each figure their correct wands, and Bellatrix' even fits nicely in the holster on her belt.

Harry also comes with a display stand, but his is quite unnecessary, since he stands great on his own. He also has his own wand that fits nicely in his right hand, and the blue Prophecy Orb. The orb fits perfectly in his left hand, which can be posed clutching it close to his chest.

Malfoy scores the best here, with some great extras. There's the display stand of course, but like Harry, you won't need it. He also has his cane/wand combo. The silver head on the cane is pulled out revealing it's true nature as Malfoy's wand. The wand fits in his right hand, while the cane goes in his left quite nicely. The only issue I have is that the head of the wand was sculpted to be in proportion with the wand itself, not the cane. Because they are working in small plastic parts, the cane sheath is much fatter, making the cane look odd when the wand is sheathed. However, that's probably not the way most folks will display it, instead opting to put each piece in either hand.

Finally, Malfoy also has a second head, wearing the newer OOTP Death Eater mask. The sculpt and paint are great, although the hair is a more traditional paint job (no translucent plastic). The heads pop off and on fairly easily, and both look great on him.  EDIT - I'm not near my Malfoy right now, but a reader wrote me to say that the mask is also removable!  Check it out yourself, and I'll be trying it when I get it in my hot little hands again.

You can remove the robes on Malfoy, but I'm not counting them as an accessory. The outfit underneath is quite detailed and cool, but you end up with less attractive shoulders because of the exposed ball joints. I prefer the robed appearance.

Fun Factor - **
This score won't have any appreciable effect on my overall, since I'm buying these as the pop culture collectibles they were intended. But if you're looking for HP toys, be aware that these don't provide for much play value. You're better off trying to locate the Popco figures, although that's tough to do for U.S. folks.

Value - **
This $15 price point, particularly for big licenses like Harry Potter, still isn't sitting particularly well with me. If extremely low runs are involved, I get it, but with these figures selling at stores like Hot Topic and FYE, the price is driven more by their desire to gouge. I'm not blaming NECA, but rather the retailers like HT who are charging such a premium.

Still, it looks like this price point is becoming the norm for specialty market figures, with $10 becoming the all too common norm for mass market figures. It will be interesting to see how much the market can bear.

Things to Watch Out For - 
Be VERY careful with Malfoy's cane and wand. The wand itself is very soft plastic, and even though the cane sheath is harder, you can still break it at a point where there is a line cut into the shaft.

Overall - Malfoy ***1/2; Harry ***; Bellatrix **1/2
I really like Malfoy, and he goes up with the second release Snape and Dumbledore as one of the best of the series.  His ability to take a number of dynamic hand poses, as well as the cool extra head, really adds to his score.

Harry is a reasonably good Harry.  I'm not leaping up and down, but for an OOTP version, he's probably my favorite at this point.

Bellatrix was a disappointment only because of the weird foot.  Oh, I would have liked a little better paint ops on the face, but she would have gotten *** easy had the foot not been an issue.  Since it doesn't appear warped or bent in anyway, and since there's no gapping or odd look to the joints, I'm not sure what's wrong.  I'd love to hear of other folks have this same issue, or I just got a fluke.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***
Sculpt - Malfoy ****; Harry ***; Bellatrix **1/2
Paint - Malfoy ***1/2; Harry, Bellatrix ***
Articulation - Malfoy **1/2; Harry **; Bellatrix *1/2
Accessories -  Malfoy ***1/2; Harry ***; Bellatrix **
Value - **
Fun Factor - **
Overall - Malfoy ***1/2; Harry ***; Bellatrix **1/2

Where to Buy -
If you're like me, online is your best bet:

- CornerStoreComics has them only in sets for $43.

- Entertainment Earth sells a case of 14 for $219. Obviously you get multiples of each figure, but if you're looking to buy with friends, it's a decent price.

- or you can search ebay using MyAuctionLinks.

- Related Links -
There's been plenty of HP related reviews over the years:

- There are the 3 3/4" figures that are the UK exclusive from Cards Inc, or if the US collectors want an alternative in this scale, check the small versions of the NECA OOTP figures, exclusive to Borders in a three pack right now.

- there was the guest review of the Tonner dolls.

- I also reviewed the first series of figures from NECA, along with the first series of OOTP, and the series 2 Snape released early at Borders.  Also from NECA in this scale is the very cool Hagrid.

- there's the other mini-busts, including light up Harry, Cho Chang, Luna Lovegood, Draco Malfoy, Merperson mini-bust, Voldemort, Hagrid and Mad Eye Moody, Ron and Hermione, Snape and Dumbledore, Dobby and Dementor, and a guest review of Harry and Sirius.

- Gentle Giant also did a statue of the Hungarian Horntail, and the Riddle Grave.

- the Noble Collection has done some nifty wands.

- just case you forgot how bad some of Mattel's figures were, here's Extreme Quidditch Harry and Dueling Club Harry.

- and if you're looking for a slightly different Hagrid, don't forget the Mattel version

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Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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