The Walking Dead Series 1
Rick Grimes, Michonne, and two Zombies
McFarlane Toys

Walking Dead action figures by McFarlane Toys

One of the surprise hits of last fall was The Walking Dead, the zombie apocalypse show from Frank Darabont and AMC, based on the exceptional graphic novel series by Robert Kirkman. The books are great, and the show mirrored much of what makes them cool without merely copying the story word for word.

Since the short 6 episode first season, there has been more drama off screen than on. Darabont was removed, there was lots of internal bickering mixed with a heaping plateful of cost cutting, and no one knows just how much effect all this will have on the quality of season 2. The fans have their fingers crossed, and the wait is almost over - the premiere is set for October 16th.

They've released a set of short 'webisodes' as well, and I recommend you check them out here if you haven't yet. While the acting could be a bit better (and there is one truly cringe worthy line of dialog), it's only about 15 minutes of your time, and well worth it.

McFarlane is producing action figures inspired by the comic book versions and the television show. Their first comic wave is now hitting stores, with the first TV wave scheduled for next month. I found Rick, Michonne and two different zombies at my local Toys R Us for the whopping price of $20 each. Considering that these are about a 5" scale, that's a heck of a price tag.

I have no idea whether we'll see a wave 2, but with all the problems that continue to plague McFarlane (they shut down their long running forums about a week ago, citing further cost reductions), it could be a long shot.

Wave 1 includes Rick Grimes, Michonne, and two zombies. There's also a black and white version of Rick (I used that one for the packaged photo shot), and I've seen evidence that there could be a blood spattered variant of Rick as well. That would be a pretty standard move for McFarlane Toys.

While the Rick and Michonne figures are obvious, the two zombies have their own names to differentiate them. The one that pops in half is referred to as the Zombie Lurker, while the one with the exploding head is called the Zombie Roamer. More on that in the review...

This review is also very photo heavy, so be sure to scroll all the way down to see them all. With a situation like this - and it's not very good - I wanted to be sure to include enough visual evidence.
Walking Dead action figures by McFarlane Toys
Walking Dead action figures by McFarlane Toys
Walking Dead action figures by McFarlane Toys
Walking Dead action figures by McFarlane Toys
Walking Dead action figures by McFarlane Toys
Walking Dead action figures by McFarlane Toys
Walking Dead action figures by McFarlane Toys
Walking Dead action figures by McFarlane Toys
Walking Dead action figures by McFarlane Toys
Walking Dead action figures by McFarlane Toys
Walking Dead action figures by McFarlane Toys
Walking Dead action figures by McFarlane Toys
Walking Dead action figures by McFarlane Toys
Walking Dead action figures by McFarlane Toys

Packaging - ***1/2
I really like the packaging on these, with their reaching zombie comic art that brings to mind the style and feel of the book. The colors are good, the size is reasonable, but of course there are way too many twisty ties getting in the way.

Another nice aspect is the info on the back on each of the four characters. It isn't quite as detailed as it could be since the card is multi-lingual, but it gives you enough info that you can easily use all the action features and accessories.

Sculpting - Zombies ***1/2; Rick, Michonne **1/2
Rick's design is based off the cover for issue #1, while Michonne's is from the cover of issue #16. That's probably not a great idea in either case, since trying to match a specific look AND give them lots of articulation is a combination that didn't work.

The zombies are great though, reminding me of the old McFarlane. We've seen them use this smaller 5" scale before, particularly when they did playsets or dioramas, and the level of detail work on the living dead is up there with their work in past years. Lots of small details on the gory faces and open wounds, with shriveled skin, oozing sores, and tattered clothing. Both zombies stand great on their own too, and I didn't have any trouble keeping them upright. the hand sculpts are appropriate, and the proportions are generally good. There's a couple areas that are a bit elongated, like the arms or the torso on the Lurker, but this is due to the inclusion of the 'action feature'.

Sadly, neither Rick or Michonne can live up to the dead. These are comic versions, so it's not necessary for them to look like any actor, but the slightly generic appearance on both doesn't scream comic character either.

Michonne is slightly better. Of course, the trademark hair helps make her recognizable, but most of the work on the face is good too. I'm not thrilled with the lips, which appear slightly open, and the right hand is sculpted at an odd angle to work with some of the smaller accessories. She also suffers from one of the worst sins - all this articulation, and she can barely stand on her own. That's a sign that the articulation and sculpt weren't well thought out in advance.

Rick can stand fine, and I liked the inclusion of a small peg hole on his chest for the bag strap as well as a loop on his belt for the ax, but he does suffer from the same general issue - his sculpt and articulation weren't planned out together. On top of that, other issues abound - the hand sculpts are unattractive, and there's some weird proportions with the arms where the lower half seems stretched out, especially on the left.

Of course, all these issues might be getting exacerbated and amplified by the next category...

Paint - Zombies ***; Michonne **1/2; Rick *
There was a time when McFarlane's paint ops were legendary - sadly, that's no longer the case.

The zombies are decent enough, and the McFarlane technique of intentional slop works with a character that is rotting off the bones. They know how to use a wash to bring out the details of the wounds and damage, and the tattered and torn clothing begs for a sloppy appearance.

The same can't be said for Michonne and Rick, and there was a time when the paint ops here would be spot on. Instead, there's way too much slop, especially at this price point. Rick is the worst, with gloppy hands, spots for the buttons that are barely in the same area as the sculpt, terrible cut lines on every detail, and those eyes...I realize these are a 5" scale, but Hasbro does better on figures another 25% smaller and at 50% of the cost.

Michonne is slightly better - at least her outfit doesn't look like a spastic hummingbird did the paint job - but there's still poor cut lines on a number of the details (the belt, socks and gloves all look awful), and once again there's something funky going on with her eyes.

While the figures they had on display at SDCC weren't extremely impressive, they were the Mona Lisa compared to the final production figures you see here. Perhaps it's a sign of the reduction in control and prestige McFarlane Toys has with their overseas manufacturers, or simply a factor of cost, but whatever the case, the paint quality has certainly taken a hit.

Articulation - Zombies **1/2; Rick, Michonne **
The best figures are done with a holostic view, the entire design considered through every step. Unfortunately, these figures appear to be done one step at a time, with little concern for how well the parts work as a whole.

There's lots of articulation - the package will tell you in big letters all about it. Rick has '23 POINTS', and yet he's barely poseable. It looks as though the sculptor was told to reproduce the look from the cover, and then they threw in as many joints as they could after the fact, whether they actuallly worked with the design or not.

At least the ball jointed neck works well, but the shoulders, hips, knees, ankles, wrists and elbows are all either restricted or poorly designed. He can stand, he can hold the gun in a couple poses...but he could have done that with far fewer obtrusive joints.

Michonne goes one better (or more accurately, worse) by having all these joints and not even being able to stand consistently. Like Rick, her neck joint is the best thing about her, and the elbows and hips are so restricted as to be almost useless.

The zombies fair better because both are able to stand on their own. There's not a ton of poses they can take, but they're zombies, so it's not really necessary. Still, they could have acoomplished the same thing with fewer joints, and adding in all the pin and ball joints just seems like articulation padding for the sake of padding. 

One joint I really do like is the jaw on the Lurker - the head tilts back to open and close the mouth, a great feature.

Accessories - Zombie Lurker Bupkis; Zombie Roamer **; Rick, Michonne ***1/2
This is the only category where it's necessary to split the two zombies up, because there is a difference in accessories.

That's because the Lurker (who separates in half) has no accessories, while the Roamer has a small ax that can be fitted into the slot in his skull. It takes a careful hand to get the ax in there and get the head to remain closed, but as you can see it is possible.

Both zombies also have removable limbs, but rather than count those as accessories, I'm going to include it in their 'action feature' score.

Rick comes with the same ax as the Roamer, as well as four shotguns (all different sculpts) that fit inside a shoulder bag. As I mentioned earlier, the shoulder bag can attach with a peg to Rick's chest, keeping it slung over the left side perfectly.

He also has a handgun which fits nicely in the holster on his hip. That's a good number of extras, and they are all nicely sculpted and in proportion. The plastic is a little soft, but not so much that I expect them to wilt.

Michonne has a great assortment of goodies as well, with a sword, drill, spoon, hammer and a pair of pliers. All of them make sense in her context in the books, and all are done in scale, even the itty bitty spoon. Her left hand is sculpted to hold the smaller items, while her right works with the sword and drill.

Action Feature - Rick, Michonne Bupkis; Zombies ***
Rick and Michonne are simply traditional action figures, with no additional features. Both zombies sport something extra, however.

The Lurker zombie has several pop off limbs, including an arm and a leg. He also comes apart mid-torso, with a nice chunk of trailing entrails. Yes, it's a bit of a rip off on the Park zombie, but it works to good effect.

The Roamer zombie has a knife sticking out of his back, as well as a small button. Press the button and his head explodes outward, with a chunk of bloody matter sticking up in mid explosion. To reset the effect, simply press down on the knife.

It's a pretty cool effect, although the two halves of the head have a little trouble staying closed, especially if you try to insert the ax in the top of the head.

The Roamer also has removable limbs, including an arm and a hand. You could probably even swap parts with a little effort, although using the pieces as extra display items works for me.

Fun Factor - Zombies ***1/2; Rick, Michonne **
The zombies are actually a lot of fun, especially with the removable limbs and visible innards. Too bad there aren't more 5" figures for these to pair up with, but if you're looking to add some undead creatures to your Halo display, these are perfect.

Value - *
Twenty dollars? I know that a lot of figures, even mass market figures, are pushing $20, but these are only 5" tall! While there's a nice assortment of extras and the action features on the zombies are cool, there's nothing here that can possible justify that sort of price point. 

Things to Watch Out For -
Look carefully at the paint ops to find the best you can.

Overall - Rick *1/2; Michonne **; Zombies **1/2
These are certainly a major disappointment for me, and now I fear that the television themed figures will end up just as bad.

They all take a hit for a $20 tag. Figures this small, even with a good assortment of accessories, just can't command that kind of price point. Even $15 would be seriously pushing it, but at $20, they've reach ludicrous speed.

At least the zombies have a few redeeming qualities, especially their 'action feature'. If you want to add them in with some other 5" line, they'll do the job. However, they still take a major hit due to the price point.

For Rick and Michonne, the high price along with the other issues - like the awful paint work - combine to create a perfect storm of bad. There's no doubt in my mind that both of these figures are going to end up on my Worst of 2011 list in a few months, and I can only hope that the up coming television based set of figures is an improvement on these.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpting - Rick, Michonne **1/2; Zombies ***1/2
Paint - Rick *; Michonne **1/2; Zombies ***
Articulation - Rick, Michonne **; Zombies **1/2
Accessories - Zombie Lurker Bupkis; Zombie Roamer **; Rick, Michonne ***1/2
Action Feature - Rick, Michonne Bupkis; Zombies ***
Fun Factor - Rick, Michonne **; Zombies ***1/2
Value - *
Overall - Rick *1/2; Michonne **; Zombies **1/2

Where to Buy -
I found these at the local Toys R Us, but online options include these site sponsors:

- Fanboy Collectibles has the set of four at under $15 each - $56. That's more like it, but you have to want the full set or have someone you can sell the unwanted figures to.

- Super Power Collectibles has the singles for just under $17 each.

- Entertainment Earth has the single comic based figures for just $15, with a cool two pack of these zombies coming soon for $35. They also have the pre-orders up for the singles and set of wave 1 of the tv based figures.

- Big Bad Toy Store has the comic series or tv series 1 for $55 each, as well as the comic zombie two pack for $34.

- or you can search ebay.

Related Links -
If you're looking for zombie collectibles, there's no real shortage these days:

- while they haven't announced any action figures yet, NECA has announced a series of busts, this being the first released.

- perfect for your Halloween party (or Walking Dead premiere party) is the Symbiote Studios cookie jar.

- Amok Time did the Night of the Living Dead zombie in sixth scale.

- Peril Unlimited has done a few, including Betty the cheerleader, and their army builder Ash.

- and don't forget Sideshow's line of The Dead, including the security guard and the priest.

- odd ball sixth scale zombies include the figures from the Dust series.

- for smaller figures, there's the GITD Flesh Eating ZombiesShaun of the Dead 2 pack, the Cult Classics 3 Flyboy Zombie from Night of the Living Dead, Earl, from Mezco's line Attack of the Living Dead, the Marvel Legends monster boxed set that included the zombie from Tales of the Zombie, and the Land of the Dead figures.

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Walking Dead action figures by McFarlane Toys

This product was purchased for the review by the reviewer. Photos and text by Michael Crawford.

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