The Two Towers Easterling

Last year, the film Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring was one of the biggest box office hits of the year.  The film captured the true spirit of the books for many fans, but the same could not be said of the toys.

While they weren't awful, they fell short of many collectors expectations.  Toybiz is now releasing the new figures based on the upcoming second film in the trilogy, The Two Towers.

Currently hitting the shelves are several two packs, along with single packs of the Easterling (reviewed here), the Gondorian Ranger, a new Legolas, Gandalf, Saruman and Aragorn, Faramir,   Eomer, Rohirrim Soldier, Theoden, Grima Wormtongue, Eowyn...and I may even be forgetting a couple.  There are also two more mounted sets with Theoden and Aragorn.

Target, Wal-mart and Kaybee are all putting these out right now.  With the new film coming out in November, not to mention that little toy buying holiday called Christmas right around the corner, you can expect a major push to get as many of these figures to retail as soon as possible.

Packaging - ***
The packaging - at least it's basic design - is the same as the FOTR figures.  It's attractive, and I like the way they incorporated the ring into the curved flap over the bubble.  But it's not collector friendly, something you might assume would have been possible with this type of flap front.

Sculpting - ****
I wasn't a huge fan of the first series of figures.  Here's a review of the original Legolas I did if you don't believe me.  While they were adequate, they fell short of my hopes. But Toybiz has really turned things around, particularly with the Easterling figure. 

The sculpting on this figure is reaching McToys quality, and that's damn hard to do.  It's not quite there - compare this to a Skullsplitter for example to see how every millimeter on the figure has some kind of detail - but it's such an improvement over the previous set of figures that it easily deserves the four star rating.

The detail on the armor is particularly outstanding, and they've done an excellent job capturing the source material.  There isn't much of a face sculpt, since the helmet/hood is sculpted and not removable, but I think that was a wise decision and allowed them to produce a much nicer overall figure.

Both hands are sculpted to hold the weapons and both work fairly well.

Paint - ****
I had issues with some of the first series figures in terms of paint ops as well.  There was a lack of consistency across the production, but as I looked over a dozen or so figures on the peg, I didn't see those issues this time.

Instead, the complicated ops are all clean and neat.  The eyes were perfect, and the wash they used on the armor to give it that weathered look worked perfectly.  Using a wash like that is always tricky and risky, as they often come out looking unrealistic.

Not only are the paint ops well done, they are extremely complex as well.  Toybiz took the heightened level of detail from the sculpt into the paint application, and the combination looks great.

Articulation - ****
I can't vouch for the entire line, but the Easterling has all the joints you could possibly want in a figure in this scale.

He has a ball jointed neck (although the movement is limited somewhat by the hood), ball jointed shoulders, cut biceps, elbows, wrists, waist, ball jointed hips, knees, cut calves and ankles.

All the joints are tight, and I had no trouble getting him to hold all kinds of cool poses.  He can't fold his arms right across his chest like some recent McToys figures, but for most folks he has all the articulation they'll need.

Accessories - ***1/2
The Easterling comes with two accessories - his shield and lance.  Both make sense for the character, but I thought the sculpting and paint ops on the shield were far superior to the work on the lance.

There's some sloppiness to the paint work on the lance, and the sculpt isn't quite as nice as the rest of the figure.  On the other end of the spectrum, the shield sculpt and paint ops are excellent, and it fits in perfectly with the armor look and style.

Value - ***1/2
At less than $7 most places, the Easterling is a great deal.  Consider this - he's getting close to McToys level detail, with great accessories and articulation, and at a price a couple bucks cheaper than his counter parts in the Viking Age line.  You can't ask for too much more than that.

Overall - ****
The Easterling isn't quite as nice as the better members of the Spawn 22 line, but you have to grade him against the other Lord of the Rings figures as well, and give credit to Toybiz for the very real improvement in the line.  I'm impressed, and if Toybiz had done this nice of a job with last year's assortments, I would have had no choice but to buy them all.

One other thing to note - there's no silly action feature here, which actually improves the figure.  I'm not sure if that's true with every TTT figure, but I'm hopeful.  Action features can be fun when done right, but it's so rare that they are done right that you're usually better off without. 

Where to Buy - 
I picked this Easterling at Target, and I know that Wal-marts and Kaybees already have them in as well.  On-line prices are a couple bucks higher each, taking out some of that great value score. 

- Entertainment Earth has cases for $120, but you'll have to find someone to take the extras. (MROTW Affiliate)

- Kaybee online has just about all of them in stock for about $9 each plus shipping.  Just search for 'two towers'.

- Big Bad Toy Store has them in sets of five for about $45 plus shipping.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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