K-9 Corps
Malice and Eclipse

I can't remember the last time I saw a really good idea for a kid's based line of action figures. No, not some licensed stuff - hell, there's plenty of that. What I'm talking about is a non-licensed line of action figures based on a genuinely interesting concept that's executed well.

There were Stifkas and Xevoz of course, both of which were solid but unable to convince kids to jump on board in any big way. Other than that? I'm coming up dry.

That's a big reason why I was so excited when I found the new K-9 Corps figures at K-mart. From Lanard, makers of cheaper sixth scale figures for years (and some 3 3/4" military stuff too), the K-9 Corps is a relatively simple concept - war has gone to the dogs, literally.

These figures are 12" tall from paw to ear, and run $13 each. There's eight different basic figures I believe (I'm going from memory on that one), and of course half are on the bad side, and half are on the good side. Each one is a different breed of dog, but if you're a big poodle or Pomeranian fan, don't expect to see your breed represented. These are shepards and dobermans and bulldogs - the tough guys.

There are also two 'deluxe' figures, General Taurus on the bad guy side, and the scientist, Elliot, who started the whole thing. You see, he developed some sort of human/dog dna experiment for the government to create the ultimate fighting machine (it's always about the ultimate fighting machine, isn't it?), but things to wrong. One of the new doggies goes rogue, steals the formula and splits, creating his own army of evil pooches.

These two deluxe figures also include a chunk of what looks like lab equipment, about the height of the figures themselves. Each dog comes with dog tags, of course, and if you put the tags in the pillar, it 'reads' the tag and says special lines.

I picked up two of the basic figures - Malice (leader of the bad guys) and Eclipse (one of the good guys). You can find these in the action figure aisle at K-mart, and I've heard rumors that they are exclusive to that chain right now.

Packaging - ***
For boxes, they show off the figures pretty well. There's also a nice clear explanation of the line and who's who, including photos of the entire line on the back. Each box also is personalized somewhat to the character included, and for a relatively cheap line, it's nice work.

They aren't collector friendly of course, since this is most definitely not a line aimed at collectors.

Sculpting - ***
This actually varies by dog. I grabbed these two because the sculpts were the best, looking the most like dogs yet getting the anthropomorphic nature of the line across nicely. There's another one that looks like a giant werewolf - he's actually some sort of wolf/dog mix - that was pretty sharp, but others, like the human scientist and Taurus the bulldog, were weak.

Malice has a nice, malicious appearance, still clearly all dog, but with evil intent in his eye. He's going to chew you a new one if you aren't careful, and they manage to pull off a fairly scary sculpt in a kid's toy. His left hand is sculpted as a mechanical device, and his right hand is designed to hold the weapons.  BTW, when you find out how Malice ended up with that mechanical hand, you'll be grossed out. Unfortunately, both paws are a little big to hold the weapons well, but he can manage if you work at it.

Eclipse has a great head sculpt - the best of the line, I thought. He looks like a dog, but has an intelligence and determination sculpted into his face that is all human. He's not evil - just serious. His hand sculpts don't work as well with the weapons though, which is too bad since he has so many. He has trouble holding just about everything, so you may want to keep those little rubber bands handy to tie the weapons in.

Scale on these is about right to fit in with other Hasbro, Lanard and other general sixth scale lines. There's some variety across the line as well, and the wolf character is quite a bit larger and taller than the others.

Paint - ***
For a line aimed at the kid's mass market, the ops are surprisingly good. Of course, this is predominately on the head, because the bodies, hands and feet are your basic blacks and browns.

There is a little slop around the teeth on Malice, and the fur tones are a little to broad, lacking any subtle color changes or transitions from one color to the next. But considering the intended market, these prove that just because it's for kids doesn't mean it can look great.

Articulation - ***
The underlying body has good articulation for play, including a cut neck, ball jointed shoulders and hips, elbows, waist, cut AND pin wrists and ankles, and double jointed knees. The only joint I found myself wishing they had was a ball jointed neck, since the sculpt tends to have them looking down a bit too much.

The hands and feet actually pop off, to allow for easy removal of the outfits. You could swap them around as well, if you were so inclined, but if I was still 10, I suspect that Obi-wan might slice a hand right off Malice during battle.

The other negative to the articulation was the extremely loose knees. They won't hold the weight of the figure in any straight leg pose. Now, part of this is okay, because the calves are sculpted like a dogs, which pushes the knee forward anyway, making a crouch of some sort the only choice. Still, the weak knees further limits the number and type of crouches the dogs can hold.

Accessories - Malice ***; Eclipse ***1/2
Each character comes with a nice assortment of deadly weapons. These pooches aren't lap dogs.

Malice has a wicked looking knife, excellent handgun with silencer (not removable), his dog tags, and a trading card explaining who he is. As I mentioned earlier, the dog tags work with the hunk of lab equipment that comes with either deluxe character.

Eclipse comes with a knife and handgun as well - but they are NOT the same sculpts! That's a nice touch, although without picking up the other figures I can't guarantee there isn't some reuse across the board. His outfit has a Navy Seal appearance, and the knife is based on a diving knife design.

The handgun fits nicely in a cool rubber chest belt, which I'll discuss more in the next section. He also comes with an automatic rifle, with folding stock, and removable silencer, clip (with extra removable clip attached) and scope. I was surprised that the gun broke down like that, since it is fairly unusual to see such details in a kid's line.

Eclipse also has the dog tags and the trading card. Finally, he comes with a metal canister that fits in his belt as well, which could be a lot of things - I'm betting the box told me what it was (which is now in the trash), but your kids can use their imaginations to make it a flashlight, canister bomb, or document canister.

I almost forgot to mention it, but they also both come with a 'video CD'. The CD gives some background info, including the general story, and the biographies.  Mine was a bit scratched up though, and had some issues when playing.

As is common for 12" military figures aimed squarely at kids, these weapons are oversized and slightly cartoony. But I was happy surprised that while they are big, they aren't as goofy looking as past attempts. Sure, the knives are huge - but they look deadly as well. The hand guns are big - but they are very cool in sculpt and design.

Outfit - Malice ***1/2; Eclipse ***
Both dogs come in nifty outfits, well designed and well fitted. They aren't super complicated, but they are removable, and show some thought went into the appearance of each character.

Eclipse is done in Navy Seal style, with a tight fitting body suit that resembles a wet suit. Over this he has a chest belt and a waist harness, with loops to hold all his accessories. There's a cool holster for his handgun on his chest, and the belts have large connectors that make taking them on and off fairly easy.

Malice is wearing the latest in evil leader dog fashion. His body suit is colorful without being goofy, and the belt and sash attach with small velcro strips. The topper here though is the cool cape - capes are always cool, and this one is extremely well designed, not too long, not too gaudy, just right for impressing the ladies and striking fear into the hearts of opponents.

Both figures use velcro to hold things in place, but there's no huge bulging strips in obvious sight. The stitching is good all around, with decent quality materials and good tailoring.

Fun Factor - ***
This line has tons of potential. It has a reasonable amount of back story that sets up the characters and creates a general conflict, but it doesn't force feed anything onto the imagination of the child. The designs are eye catching and interesting, and since they fit in with other sixth scale lines aimed at kids, they have cross over appeal.

The only thing holding them back are the floppy knees and the inability to hold the weapons. Fix those problems, and there isn't a 8 year old kid out there that won't find these fun.

Value - **1/2
Ten bucks would be the sweet spot for these, and I suspect that if they had a wide run at stores like Wal-mart, Target and Toys R Us, they could get the price in that neighborhood. At thirteen, they aren't quite as good of a value, and will be a slightly tougher sell for kids, working on their parents for that extra three bucks.

Things to Watch Out for - 
No issues here, other than possibly losing the various parts that come with Eclipse's rifle. I think I've already managed to lose the silencer, although I'm going to look some more tonight.

Overall -  ***
The line has potential for kids, particularly if you're looking to get them interested in 12" figures. The character designs are well thought out, there is just enough back story to make the idea interesting without laying it all out, and the actual playability is fairly high.

However, I was expecting a higher fun factor when I saw them in the box. The floppy knees and difficulty holding their weapons brought that down for me, since I think kids will get frustrated by both pretty quickly. Still, the line has real potential, especially if you're looking to introduce your kids to this scale. There are also several of the figures that will go great with any young G.I. Joe fan looking for a unique character to battle with - and against - his existing army.

Packaging - ***
Sculpt - ***
Paint - ***
Articulation - ***
Accessories - Malice ***; Eclipse ***1/2
Outfit - Malice ***1/2; Eclipse ***
Fun Factor - ***
Value - **1/2
Overall -  ***

Where to Buy -
K-mart appears to be the store of choice right now for this line. I saw everything there except for the vehicle pictured on the back of the boxes. Regular figures are $12.99, and the deluxe figures are $19.99.

Related Links - 
Not like I've ever reviewed a canine military figure before, but:

- there is a site for the line with much of the same info as the included CD.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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