Army of Darkness Series 2

Palisades is in trouble.  There, I said it.  Lots of people are avoiding saying it, although they can read the signs.  Many, many missed deadlines.  Core people like Ken Lilly and Travis Allen gone.  Little to no communication coming out of the company from anyone other than the new PR person.  No shows at a recent Wizard World.  Two exclusives not showing up at the previous show, and still not available, weeks later, on the website.  Retailer support way down (with excess CASES of their own figures now available at their online store), their selling of everything but the office furniture through Palisades Direct and the Collector's Club, and the future of even Sesame Street, a line they were banking on heavily, now in jeopardy.  It no longer appears to be a question of 'if', but rather 'when'.

It's unfortunate of course, since there are some wonderful people at Palisades, right up to the president, Michael Horn.  These are people with good hearts, who work hard and do their best.  But making money isn't about having a good heart, or a bad one, and at the company level, it's not just about working hard either.  If you're working hard on the wrong thing, and making the wrong decisions, then the best of intentions still lead you to the hell of bankruptcy.

If what I'm saying comes to pass, then there will be much debate as to what caused the downfall of such a great company.  Outsiders will speculate on everything from hard to find exclusives in the Muppet line to blind boxing in the mini-figures.  Even insiders will argue the point, since it's rarely a single decision or a single direction that causes such trouble, but rather a succession.

I don't think blind boxing the has killed Palisades.  I don't even think it killed the Army of Darkness line, since it was already on life support after series 1.  But I do believe it was one of a series of decisions that has truly hurt the organization.

In theory, blind boxing can work.  If all 12 figures in this set were evenly packed, so that trading for the figures you don't have was an option, the uproar would have been very minimal.  After all, that's a theory that's worked before and still does.

But when you vary the case pack outs so that some figures are rarer than others (MUCH rarer), you eliminate the possibility of trading for them, and force your collectors to buy figures they don't really need.  Can some of these figures be used as army builders?  Sure.  But with only two Ash figures in this assortment, and one of those packed 1:64 and the other packed 1:32, the odds of getting anything BUT army builders is pretty slight.

The theory was that retailer support would be bigger if they took this route, twisting the arm on their consumer to buy crap they don't really want in an effort to get what they do.  This does not appear to be the case though, with very few retailers picking up series two.  I was fortunate enough to be sent a set by a sponsor, Time and Space Toys, for this review.  Unfortunately, most collector's won't be in this position.

The two figures most difficult to find are the S-Mart Ash (at 1:64) and the Kings Knight Infantry (also at 1:64).  It should be noted that this figure has changed from the one pictured on the box, and is no longer wearing the red tunic, but now sports a gray.

Pit Battle Ash (1:32) is also tough to find, and the other figures are: King's Bodyguard (1:16); Winged Deadite (1:16); Evil Ash (1:16); Deadite Infantry (1:8); Pit Deadite (1:8); Duke's Knight Infantry (1:8); Deadite Captain (1:8); Duke (1:8); and the Deadite Archer (1:8).  I think there will be a lot of folks with way more Duke's than they could ever want.

Packaging -  ***
Let's ignore the blind boxing concept for a moment, since I'll really get into that as part of the value section.

The boxes themselves look great, with a nice shot from the film on the front.  The back has some great text, but an insert showing all the figures - and their odds - would have been nice, since the casual buyer won't know what else is available.

Sculpt - S-mart Ash, Pit Battle Ash ***; everyone else ***1/2
In general, the sculpting is excellent on this line, particularly with the deadites and soldiers.

The boxes proclaim these a 4" scale, but they fit in perfectly with the 3 3/4" Star Wars line, among others.

Some of these figures are standouts, like the Winged Deadite.  The sculpt on her is truly amazing in this scale, and the wings look leathery and veined. There's a ton of texturing on every character, giving different areas - tunics, armor, flesh - the appearance of being made of different materials.

The Evil Ash and Deadite Archer are standouts as well, with plenty of small detail work on the bony, bloody sections.

On frustration across the whole set is the difficulty many have in holding their weapons.  The hands are sculpted with that intention, but at least one hand on most of the characters has an opening too small to work well.  The plastic is quite stiff on these, so it is very difficult to force them to work without the risk of damaging them.

You'll notice that both Ash figures scored lower than the rest of this series.  That's due to the slightly cartoonish appearance of Bruce Campbell in both versions.  If I had to pick one as being more accurate, I'd go with the S-mart version, the harder one to find of course.  Oddly enough, the two figures look very little alike, even though they are the same person.

Paint - ***1/2
On many of these figures, like all the Deadites, it would be tough to be too sloppy with the paint.  There's lots of wash, blood and ooze to go around.

The wash works pretty well at bringing out the smaller details, and the face paint is uniformly solid.  They've used the paint to give a weathered and worn look to much of the armor, and added a dirt look to Pit Battle Ash.  Considering the scale, the work is all above average, even in the specialty market.

Articulation - ***1/2
The articulation varies between different characters and different designs, but all have a ton of joints.

There's ball jointed necks, shoulder and hips on all of them, although the designs of some of the knight helmets/hair restricts the movement.  There's also double jointed knees on everybody, and only the skinniest of the bunch are missing the double jointed elbows.  There's ankles and wrists of course, and some of the figures sport the cut bicep joints and cut thigh joints as well.

The skeletons and winged Deadite also have a ball jointed chest which works extremely well, giving them some nice hunched poses.

If the usual 4" figure articulation leaves you cold, then these will thaw you right out.  Most of the joints work well, but some where painted tight.  Be careful working them loose!

Accessories - ***1/2
Every figure comes with a small display stand, and at least two or three additional accessories.

The little bases are critical for some characters, like the skeletons, who can't stand without them.  Unfortunately, they have a tough time standing with them as well.  The foot holes and base pegs aren't quite the right size to match up - the foot holes tend to be too small.  A tight fit is good, but a too tight fit allows the figure to pop off the stand easily.  That's the case with too many of this series.  Thankfully, not all of them need the stands, like the Ash figures or the knights.

Some, like S-Mart Ash with his rifle, rifle holster and pricing gun, are very character specific.  Others include some of the swords and shields we've seen before.

A couple of the knights also come with the mobile stockade.  Since you're likely to end up with a lot of these guys, you'll end up with far more stockades than you could ever want. 

The Pit Witch has the fewest accessories, with just a shield, probably due to her larger size and huge wings.  The Deadite Archer comes with the most, since each of her three arrows are separate, along with the quiver, crossbow, and long bow.

The stockade is my least favorite of the accessories, but the best of the bunch is Pit Battle Ash's chainsaw.  It fits perfectly on his right arm, and looks great doing it.  There are a couple more that really standout like the two headed mace, or the removable cloak on the Deadite Captain, and in general the assortment and quality is great across the entire series.

Quality - ***
I added this category for this review because of all the issues we saw with series 1.

I'm happy to say most of those issues are gone.  Of course, they were also gone for most of series 1, but the heavy breakage that occurred with the initial batch of figures soured a lot of people on the line at a critical time.

I had one bad ankle out of 12 figures this time, and it appeared to be more of a manufacturing problem than a breakage issue.  A couple more figures had loose bicep joints, but not bad enough to cause a major problem.

My biggest QA issue was with my Evil Ash, who came with two left hands.  I don't recall that being mentioned in the movie...

Fun Factor - ***
Coming in the same kid friendly scale as Star Wars, these should get a higher fun factor.  The frustration with keeping many of them standing even with the stands, and the difficulty many had with holding accessories, makes them less fun for the average kid though.  Collector's shouldn't have too much trouble, since they won't be handling them a lot once they are posed, but kids will get frustrated pretty quick.

Value - *
Each of the blind packages costs around $5 - $6, depending on the retailer.  If you knew what you were getting, that would a slightly above average buy, considering what mass market stuff sells for.

Since you don't know what you're getting though, value takes a different turn.  If you buy a case of these figures, you're guaranteed of getting at least 11 of the 12, but if you were just looking for the set of twelve, that comes out to almost $20 a figure for the 11 you wanted!  Sure, you end up with 21 more figures for army building, if that's what you were looking for, but odds are that 3 or 4 will end up Duke's.

Even then, getting a case won't get you a set.  The S-mart Ash is going for $30 - $50 on ebay right now, bringing your grand total to around $250 to complete a set of $12 figures.

Things to watch out for - 
Some of the joints will be painted tight, especially the elbows and knees.  The are pretty sturdy, but you'll still want to take care when loosening them up.

Overall -  ***
The first series of Army of Darkness figures were killed by two issues - high cost (at around $15 a two pack) and breakage.  The initial figures had an extremely high rate of joint breaks, and this was widely reported across the collector boards.  Palisades got the issue fixed, but the damage was already done to the reputation of the line.

This is a very solid line, with some great sculpting and paint.  The articulation is unheard of in a 4" scale line, and with the majority of the breakage issues behind them, they appear to have the kinks worked out of the new body style.  A lot of thought went into this series, until a bad decision was made.  Rather than focus on the areas that caused series 1 problems, they went with blind boxing in an attempt to get the overall line back on your buy list.  Unfortunately, it backfired, and the managed to kill their own patient - a patient already on life support.

I suspect that this line will be hugely popular with vintage collectors and future Army of Darkness fans, oh, in 10 years or so.  Finding series 1 figures that are still all in one piece will be a trick, and I'm betting that the S-Mart Ash will be a holy grail for many.  Unfortunately, like a great painter that goes unrecognized until his untimely death, people will miss out on these now. 

The value score *almost* managed to pull this set down another half star.  It's only because they've put so much effort into correcting earlier issues that they managed to squeak out that full third star.

Packaging - ***
Sculpt - S-Mart and Pit Battle Ash ***; all others ***1/2
Paint - ***1/2
Articulation - ***1/2
Accessories - ***1/2
Fun Factor - ***
Value - *
Overall - ***

Where to Buy -
I haven't actually seen these anywhere yet, but some comic shops and specialty stores should get them in.  I received this set from Time and Space Toys, who are the only sponsor even carrying them at this point.  Considering the fact that series 1 is still at most stores, I'm not surprised.

Time and Space Toys also tried their best to come up with ways to offer different sets of these to make it easier on the collector.

Related Links -
There's a number of links for the AOD toy fan:

- first of course, you should check out the Palisades site.

- then there's my review of series 1 of the 4" line.

- there's also a set of Mez-itz based on the film.

- and of course there's Sideshow's 12" line, including a regular Ash and an Evil Ash (and S-mart too!).


Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

This page copyright 2003, Michael Crawford. All rights reserved. Hosted by 1 Hour