Guitar Hero

   "The following is a guest review.  The review and photos do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Michael Crawford or Michael's Review of the Week, and are the opinion and work of the guest author."

We have a new guest reviewer tonight, Mubashar Ahmed. Let's give him a warm welcome! What's the scoop?

Hey there folks! Hope everyone is having a great time there. Submitting a review for the first time, so… kindly bear with me.

I am reviewing the Guitar Hero Series 1 Action Figure line from McFarlane. Guitar Hero is that game that is insanely popular, highly addictive and vaguely appealing. I am only saying that because with the positive characters in the game, things are not as big as with the negative ‘badass’ characters. Seems to remind us of a change in the wind eh? Anyhow, this line features only 4 figures, but a whole lot of variants for them. I am in no way, a Guitar Hero fan. I have never played it. I only picked these up because they looked appealing, different, and well, they are McFarlane toys.
Guitar Hero action figures

Guitar Hero action figures
Guitar Hero action figures
Guitar Hero action figures

Packaging: **1/2
Yes, I know, I know. It’s McFarlane. However this is my opinion. The packaging is fairly ‘generic’. These are blister packs, with minimum graphics. There are 4 huge photos on the back of the basic figures of the line. And not much else is there. See, with McFarlane, usually, we expect more each time, and with each line. I understand these are blister packs, and these are not the usual McFarlane high octane meant for display only figures, but c’mon. They could have at least gone to the trouble of saying a little about the character. So how am to know about these figures, if I were but not to visit the Guitar Hero sites and fish for information? And if it’s McFarlane, then you know… there are … twisty wires! This time though, there are three of them in each pack: one around the figure’s waist, one around one leg, and a third around the left arm.  I think in this case, with the more fragile sculpts, the twisty wires could actually do more damage. I was very careful when trying to pry out each figure. And one of the figures clearly developed a bend in the leg, not at the joint but around the thigh area. I know that was not supposed to be the way it was.

Sculpt: Lars Umlaut ***, Axel Steel ***1/2, Johnny Napalm: ****, God of Rock: ***
Now this is where McFarlane always does shine, almost, with every line! And they do so here as well! Of course, there are always… degrees. So, when I picked these up, initially from the package itself, the two most appealing to me were God of Rock and Lars Umlaut. However, when I opened them, and looked at them, and played around a bit, my perception quickly changed. Lars and Rock God became my least two, and the other two, Axel Steel and Johnny Napalm became favorites. There are a number of reasons for that. I think I best mention the sculpts ‘credentials’ one by one. One note though: Mcfarlane is billing these as 6 inch scale. That is ‘very’ inaccurate. These are more like 5” to 5.25 “ figures. The tallest (standing straight) seems to be Johnny Napalm and Lars Umlaut is next. And neither is 6 inch scale. Johnny somehow hits the 6 inch scale due to his hair. But the top of his head, he is just about 5.25”. Now, let’s get right to the sculpts.

Johnny Napalm, (in essence and) for his badass attitude is my least favorite character with all the drug addiction, EMO and incarceration history going. I wouldn’t want a 13 year old taking influence or even subscribing to the character in any part. But here, Johnny in plastic form, made me bite my words. A very cool sculpt indeed! Though lanky, and somewhat underweight, the punk rocker’s look has been captured near perfectly. His Mohawk adds a more imposing appearance to the character. Mine was a basic figure with a brown Mohawk (or if you will, call them liberty spikes), but there are at least three variants for the figure: a green Mohawk, a black Mohawk and a skeletal costume. His guitar of course, befits a punk rocker, and is depicted as being designed out of a toilet bowl seat and a dead rat. There are even ‘poo’ stains with the word ‘poo’ adding to the grossness. He has an actual chain and lock on his left hip, and which adds to the appeal of the figure. They could have perhaps, easily taken a short cut, and sculpted the chain on the hip, but they actually produced it separately, and with specially made hooks on the jeans, attached the chain and lock on them! That itself shows the dedication they had towards their work. But more impressive is the fact that the figure expressed the character’s reality to me even though I did not know it. The smirk on his face readily told me that this character is a troubled (and ‘troubling’) guy, and possibly on with a ‘I don’t damn care’ attitude. And it turned out to be right. Hence, even before I knew Johnny, I knew him, directly from the sculpt. His facial expression also generates an air of know it all, a smugness that he is drifting through effortlessly with his strumming, and doesn’t have a care of the competition. Also, what good is a sculpt that does not stand well on its own? There is no problem with Johnny here. In fact, with guitar in hand, and the huge Mohawk, he has pretty good ‘posture’ even without the base. Hence, in my opinion, a four star sculpt, very well done.

Axel Steel, my second favorite, is almost as good as Johnny Napalm, except for maybe my own insight. Axel comes with two variations: with a Spawn T-shirt, and the basic Axel. I got the variant, and as you can see in the pics, it is damn cool. His jacket and jeans, being denim, are very well detailed, and each has a different texture. The black shirt is basic but with creases and folds, and then there is the Spawn T. I also like his sneakers. As you see from the shot, they have a weathered, rough look about them, and the sculptor went to the trouble to give that rough and used sneaker look right down to the soles! The jacket is truly impressive. Reminded me of those little porcelain statues that someone gifted me, depicting a denim jean or jacket. It almost looks as if the jacket is removable, but it isn’t. Whereas all this is fine, it is however, Axel’s expression, and hair that really impressed me. His gaping mouth, and flowing hair are done to a tee! If you see the pics I added from the game itself, it is easy to see that they nailed it right on. His hair is made of soft rubber (like Rock God’s), and allows for some movement. For some reason, he has a slight 

(horizontal) bend in his right knee. Again, that might be my figure, or the twisty wires doing, but that’s the way it was. He will have a hard time standing on his own, particularly with the top heavy and short legs frame. He will need the base to stand with a guitar and if posed differently other than standing straight, in which case, he will manage to hold his feet. With the pros and cons, I couldn’t see him as good as Johnny, but good enough on his own, and therefore, ***1/2.

Lars Umlaut is branded as the badass Death Metal rogue. Of course, with the costume and Goth look, it is easy to see Lars has issues. Hence a sculpt that in spite of being expressionless, speaks for itself, quite loudly, to say. Lars was the first sculpt that I had picked up, and the rest followed. His spikes, shoulder pads, and heavily packed belt are done very very well. The texturing and details are right there, and his skin tone, and painted face make for a great contrast with the costume. Mine is a variant, with blond hair. Though, in my rush, I made a mistake. I should have picked up the basic version with pitch black hair. It simply looks better than this and probably would have improved the rating. But in spite of that, blond Lars is still a sculpt that you will not regret to own. The pictures show the detail work on his shoes, shoulders and the arm bands. What I didn’t like is his guitar: a Purple colour for an otherwise great bat design. Might look great in the game, but with the hardcore sculpt, it will look like a toy. Black, with shine or polish might have worked better in my opinion. I think you will agree. That is why he is a star down from the others already reviewed in terms of sculpting.

God of Rock is not God, but a deity. A human said to be ascended to the mythical world of Mt. Olympus who strums away in a pub meant for deities. That is why I immediately saw the mythical, Thor like look, or even, more so, a Zeus like look to him. Next to Lars, he was my choice, but well, this is another case of ‘never judge the book by its cover, or more precisely in this case, never judge a partially open book even. I could see the figure plainly, but with the reflections and plastic folds, missed a few things. Those brought a couple of stars down on this guy. His head sculpt is awesome. He has the same expression as Axel Steel. In fact, in the details of the characters on line, there seems to be a connection between Axel and this character: a transition or transformation, or no relevance to each other? Not sure. Rock God here has detailed hair, which is designed to flow at the back to accommodate the huge clunky chain across his torso. The beard/hair is made of rubber, and allows for the chain or the guitar strap to go comfortably round his neck. The chain itself is not removable, but does add to the majesty of the character. His guitar is the best of the lot, well, in terms of expense and quality of material that is being portrayed anyways. His tunic, or toga and skirt is done well in rubber, with two paints for texture. What is cool is, that the tunic on the upper body is a piece by itself! He has a metallic Dragon sculpt guitar. Mine came with an unhooked strap on one end; thinking of using glue to fix that. My qualm came with two things: First, he just does not stand on his own. He can’t, with the top heavy frame and small legs, and the torso bent backwards. You have to use the base, plus the extra support of the amplifier to make him stand. Secondly, there is some sloppy sculpting here. I know, I know, many folks will hate me here, but it is true. If you look at the pic, the left shoulder and bicep attachment are done very sloppily, making it look like a toy, not a pose able action figure. I guess I am being too picky, but I am an artist at heart, and I guess I look at these things like little 3D works of art. That is why I collect em’. I was actually disappointed at the sloppy work. Maybe it is just my figure. It could even be storage wear.  But this is hard McFarlane quality plastic we are talking about, and these just hit stores days ago. Hence my complaint about it being done a little ‘carelessly’. I guess they did this for the sake of convenience, or thinking that collectors will maintain the figure in its one classic game pose. Well, that doesn’t do it for me. A three (generous stars) to this figure.

Paint: Lars Umlaut ***, Axel Steel ***-1/2, Johnny Napalm: ****, God of Rock: ***-1/2
This is another category in which McFarlane really gets all the (deserved) attention). It is one thing to do things in one mold and have inconsistencies show on the figures, but quite another to do them in a similar mold, and then paint them so well that they all appear distinct, even with similar elements. For example, the black ‘wearable’ parts of the figures seem to be painted by one person.

 Lars was the one that initially drove my attention and led me to dish out the green on the rest. In that, one thing was his spectacular paint job. It’s certainly a sort of consolation for the other things that are lacking. His black costume and shoulder pads are done in similar black (makes sense), yet have a slightly different feel to them. There are some accents in the shoes, pants and shoulder pads and gauntlets. The spikes are silvery. On mine, there was a little slop there on the spikes, particularly on the gauntlets and shoulder pads. But his face paint is dead on, as well as his hair. Even his blonde version has two accents in the hair to bring out the ‘pert plus’ feel. If you have a basic figure, it will probably be more imposing due to the pitch black hair, which stands out differently than the costume, and that is good work. The spikes on his waist are painted a nice golden and have a metallic feel to them. The guitar only has two tones, purple (which is the mold I believe) and the black string set, with slight traces of white. It is not the ‘The’ paint job, but it has its moments. Now you may wonder, with all the praise, why only 3 stars? Actually I am quite generous with 3 stars here. It might be just me, but I think that the paint is what ‘clogged’ up the articulation on good ol’ Lars here. And that in my book, is a no no. If that is somehow, not a cut joint, then it is very sloppy sculpting. But for now, I will just think that it is the overtly done paint job around those cuts, and not the sculpt misunderstanding that took away a star and more from the articulation category for this figure.

Axel Steel has a good paint job indeed. This is truly a good work of art here. The paint on the sneakers, jeans, T-shirt and Jacket all has a different feel to them. With the texture details, it becomes sharper. His hair has been done in the basic brown, with black lines and a touch of shade here and there to channel that realism factor. The skin tone is just fine. It resembles the game, and that is our main expectation here. His tattoos really show well too. The devil tattoo on the back, and the spawn on the front, both look awesome. For a figure this size, (just like the Halo line), the paint job is pretty consistent.

As for Johnny Napalm, what can I say? The paint job’s very well done. The only objection I could raise in this review is that with the tattoo work on his arms, there is a bit of gloss on them, making them a bit different to the skin tone on his torso and head. But again, those are the tattoos. Speaking of tattoos, they comprise much of the stars here too. The paint work there is clean, and sharp. He has a bar code (as in supermarket items) on the back of his head, and a larger ‘Rotten’ tattoo on his tummy. In spite of both being different in size, they stand out clearly. That shows the sharpness of the paint job. Personally, I think the brown paint on the liberty spikes is pretty good, personally speaking. The images of the black and green seem to add more flamboyance to the sculpt, but take away from the overall impact. Again, that’s just my feeling that the basic look of the brown Mohawk suits him just fine.

God of Rock, again, quite well done. The tunic he sports had two paint effects, a lighter and darker black, with the lighter one coming off as grayish, and implied specifically around the folds of the clothing to make them stand out. His skin tone is similar to the other figures, and the minute details in his gaping mouth, and teeth have not been missed and quite carefully done.  

My personal thought on the pain category is that they could have added a slighter shade of brown here and there, to pas sit off as shading, and truly make these into works of art. But they are pretty solid as it stands, and I am pleased with the paint work.

Articulation: Lars Umlaut **, Axel Steel ***, Johnny Napalm: ***-1/2, God of Rock: **
This is one category that changed my perception of things quickly.

Lars Umlaut to start with, has ball jointed shoulders, and legs, cut wrists and waist, with the standard 1 direction bendable knees and elbows. He also has ball jointed ankles. There is also what appears to be the standard (Marvel Legends style) articulated biceps, (just below the deltoids). However, with my figure, the joint just won’t work. When I tried a bit too much to get the cut to work, the arm itself came off. (See pic) Since I like my figures intact, I decided to forgo the experiment of the bicep, and put the arm back in place. What I see here is paint sloppiness (more on that below). The arm now comes off almost every time I try to move it around. What really got me down are the ‘ball jointed’ hip and thigh points. There is barely any articulation there. I know, I know… I might be picky. But what good is a joint that is well, close to being no joint? What is the point of having ball jointed feet it they do not come into play (almost). I see one reason for the hip joints being limited: either restrictive paint (as in the arm) or poor judgement on the sculpt and joint. A heavy ass sculpt like lars did not need a near flat panel for a groin area, which restricts the ball joints. To fix this however, a simple thigh cut would have improved things, but no. They didn’t do that. They gave Johnny a cut thigh, though he didn’t necessarily need it, but none for Lars. It would have also helped the sculpt itself, and given a wider degree of movement to the legs. Also, Lars’ head has no articulation. I understand, that the shoulder pad, and the hair are encompassing the head, but all in all, no head articulation, in spite of a ball jointed head. Hence, this is it. Two stars for Lars.

Axel Steel on the other hand, has ‘workable’ articulation. He has hip ball joints, one direction knee and elbow joints, ball jointed shoulders, cut wrists, cut waist and cut upper arms. All his joints work well. Being a top heavy frame, making him stand after ‘articulating’ on his knees may be futile, but with the base, he ‘rocks’. Also, he has ball jointed ankles, which as in Lars’ case, are sadly restricted to the point of almost not being there. He has heavy feet, and heavy jean bottoms, and the sculpt cancels out the joint here. He has decent head movement, in spite of the mane of hair (which is made of soft rubber) and allows for limited yet acceptable articulation. You won’t get him looking up at the sky, but left right and below are no problem. Plus you could swivel his head a bit at an angle too to get that attitude look, …and he looks decent doing it. His shoulder ball joints do not afford him all sorts of degree in pose ability, but that again, is due to the jacket and sleeve creases contradicting each other. Still, with a McFarlane figure quality, and a killer sculpt, I would let it go. Hence, three stars for Axel.

Johnny Napalm became a favorite figure of this series for this reason as well. Good articulation. For starters, Johnny sports ball joints in the shoulders, (Marvel Legends style) cut biceps, ball jointed hips and ankles, cut wrists, standard 1 direction elbow and knee joints, a cut waist and a cut thigh. Though I wish there would have been an additional degree of movement on the elbows and knees, it is not necessary. Guy’s a rocker, and those poses do not require ‘cringy’ stature. All his joints work fine, leave for the feet, which in another case of the sculpt canceling out the articulation, do not move up and down, but side to side is no problem. His hands hold the guitar well even without it being on his neck or in both hands. His ball jointed head has the widest degree of movement than the other figures (of course, with no hair or shirt to restrict the movement). When used with his base, you could really get several classic guitarist poses out of him, leave alone ‘Napalm’ poses. Hence, with these pluses, I think we got our selves a well articulated figure in Johnny Napalm.

God of Rock has ball jointed shoulders, cut biceps, wrists, waist, and left (or was it right??) ankle. He also has a ball jointed neck. What I was not happy with was the inconsistency or flaws if you will. For instance, the right ball joint shoulder works quite well. As you can see, his arm has a complete degree of movement here. The left ball jointed shoulder is however (at least in my figure) severely ‘unarticulated’ in comparison to the left. It rises only partially, and with the bad sculpting on the right cut bicep, I did not want to experiment on him by pushing it any further than it goes. Again, could be paint, or bad sculpting, but the articulation suffered there. The cut biceps, waist and wrists work fine. The cut ankle on mine has yet to ‘awaken’. Don’t know how much I will have to twist and force it till it gives in and budges from its ‘slumber’. His tiny spindly legs support a huge frame, probably the bulkiest of the 4 figures, and therefore, have limited articulation. Only the hips have movement in them that is not restricted by the rubber skirt. As for his head, given the great amount of hear (beard/long hair), he can only move so much. There is limited articulation on the head there. All in all, he’s better than Lars Umlaut in this category, but with the sculpt and movement countering each other, he ends up being as articulated as his painted death metal friend.

Accessories: **
I was tempted to give a bupkis, but I won’t. You will see what I mean. I did not count the bases as accessories, especially if you need them in two of these cases to make the figures just to stand up. For that matter, I can not count God of Rock’s amplifier base addition as an accessory either. You need it to make him pose for you. I guess the guitars could ‘pass’ as accessories, though they also shouldn’t since a Guitar Hero is nothing without his guitar. I have still rated them considering the guitars to be accessories. They could have included a better base, or perhaps some little memorabilia with these. It would have added to the value.

Fun factor: ***
If you are a Guitar Hero fan, this figure line is a dream come true. Fan boys ought to go wild over these. Just displaying them along with whatever else from Guitar Hero offers, would be a blast. However, they are not kids toys. It even says on the package that they are for ages 13 and up. There might be two reasons for that. One is that smaller kids could easily hurt themselves with those hard spikes and spiky hair. I know I felt it when I tried to press down Umlaut’s foot into the peg on the base. The other reason could be purely to avoid influence of the characters on the younger kids. These are for Guitar Hero fans after all, and as such, belong more so than others, on a Guitar Hero fan’s display shelf.

Value: **1/2
Now these are supposed to be action figures, but we all know that they are actually more like mini statues. They quality of the plastic and the sculpt was sure to ‘spike’ the prices. I picked my line at a local Zellers for $ 15.00 Cdn. a piece. In my estimate, it is still quite high a cost. In the US, they are retailing for about 10 – 11 dollars, depending on the vendor. But with the comparison I did with the Halo lineup (the Multi game player releases), which are outrageously priced up to $ 17 -18.00 Cdn. each, I thought these to be priced OK. All in all, I think they are worth the cost, for Guitar Hero fans. As mentioned earlier, an additional accessory apart from the guitar would have brought the value up. For now, this is it. 

Things to look out for:
I mentioned above under the articulation category that Lars’ arm came off during my ‘articulation’ experiment. I didn’t push that hard, but just hard enough for the cut joint to work. Not saying that is the issue with every figure in the house, but it is something to watch out for. Similarly, watch it when undoing those ties. Not to sound too elementary here, but when undoing them, make sure you pull the ties out first instead of trying to pry the figure from the packaging with the ties. Also, the pegs on the bases are sometimes removable. So, they might end up sticking under the figure, and possibly drop off. Finally, please, these are meant for kids of a certain age. I recall 13 or 14 and up. Please make sure you ‘obey’ that categorization. These are strictly not for kids younger than that.

Overall: ***
I think this is a different interesting genre of action figure. Couple that with the Mcfarlane brand, and you have yourselves a pretty good line up that doesn’t look bad on the shelf. If you are considering these action figures for adventures, they are not it. But for mid teens owners and beyong, they should do their job well. Hence, three stars.

Score Recap:
Packaging - **1/2
Sculpting - Lars Umlaut ***, Axel Steel ***1/2, Johnny Napalm: ****, God of Rock: ***
Paint - Lars Umlaut ***, Axel Steel ***-1/2, Johnny Napalm: ****, God of Rock: ***-1/2
Articulation - Lars Umlaut **, Axel Steel ***, Johnny Napalm: ***-1/2, God of Rock: **
Accessories - **
Fun Factor - ***
Value - **1/2
Overall - ***

Where to Buy -
Check your local mass market stores like Toys R Us, or try one of these sponsors:

- Clark Toys has the individual figures for $12 each.

- Urban Collector has the first series for $83.

- Entertainment Earth has the singles for $12 each.

- Things From Another World has the single figures for $12.59.

Or eBay where you’ll find them for ‘buy it now’ of between $9.99 and $12.99. You can do that search using the sponsor MyAuctionLinks.

Figure from the collection of Mubashar Ahmed.

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