Invader Zim Series 1
Zim, Gir, Ms. Bitters, Tallest Purple and Dib

Don't know who Invader Zim is? Then you should be picking up the recently released DVD's of this witty, fun, and enjoyable Nick cartoon.

Here's the thirty second description - Zim is an inept alien invader from the planet Irken. The Irken's are on a campaign to dominate the universe, but Zim isn't their top man. So rather than deal with him screwing up important stuff, the leaders (the Tallest) send him off to the unimportant little rock of a planet called Earth to do some 'reconnaissance' work. They stick him with an equally inept robot named Gir, and send him on his way.

While here, both he and Gir take human (or in Gir's case, dog) persona's while walking amongst us. Since Zim is short, he doubles as a kid, going to school to learn our secrets. Only his fellow classmate Dib is smart enough to realize he's actually an alien bent on destroying the world, but nobody listens to Dib anyway. Dib is after Zim, Zim is after the world, and from there it's pure caa-moe-dee.

Palisades already released a set of exclusive figures through Hot Topic, which I reviewed last month. This first regular series is the same line up of characters - Zim, Dib, Gir, The Tallest Purple, and Ms. Bitters (Zim and Dib's teacher) - but with 'calm' face sculpts and kick ass accessories. The retail on the regular series is about $15 each, although I have some online retailers where you can do a little better.

Packaging - ***
It's HUGE. Really huge. Think Ren and Stimpy, only deeper. They aren't quite as wide as the R&S clamshells, but almost, and they are all deeper due to the play set pieces.

The back of the inserts are also nicer than what we got with the Hot Topic exclusives. This time there's not only a photo of the character, but a quote and some descriptive text.

Sculpting - Gir, Dib, Tallest Purple ****; Zim, Bitters ***1/2
The sculpts on these figures are all excellent, although whether you like each one individually better or worse than the Hot Topic version might be up for debate.

Gir is the normal version, with his rather blank look. I actually prefer this version to the Hot Topic one, since it's a more common look for him. The sculpting is solid, with the right amount of detail, and great proportions between the various body parts.

Dib is my next favorite, and it's a real toss up whether I prefer him with his calm face, or if I prefer the frustrated, angry face on the Hot Topic exclusive. Both have their strong points, but this calm version is another very common look for him.

The Tallest Purple is another toss up. If push came to shove though, I'd take the calm version, again because it's the most common look, and one that will fit in best with a variety of poses.

Zim is a slightly different story. While the calm appearance is still common, the more expressive version that Hot Topic released just says "I'm Invader Zim and you're a pathetic human" so much better.

Finally, there's Ms. Bitters. Of this set, she's my least favorite, although the sculpting is still solid. The calm look really doesn't work for her, since that boiling anger that's right beneath the surface doesn't come through.

Paint - ***1/2
One of the niftiest features of these figures is the translucent eyes on Zim and the Tallest. They give them a depth and realism that simple plastic eyes would not have had. While it's not really paint, it is the lack thereof along with the choice of material, that makes this so special.

The overall paint application is well done, although there are a few issues. Some of the eyes have minor scratches or dings, and there is some slight bleed between the darker colors. These were more minor than what I saw with the Hot Topic exclusives though, and while I might have got lucky, this set deserves a slightly better score.

Articulation - The Tallest ***; Dib, Zim, Ms. Bitters **1/2; Gir **
The weird designs of the characters themselves make the articulation a tough engineering project, but Palisades has done an admirable job. Just be careful when you're moving the little parts.

Gir is the smallest figure, and not surprisingly, has the least amount of articulation. He has a ball jointed neck, and ball jointed shoulders The top of his head also pops off, allowing him to store various things up there. Nothing else is in the way, that's for sure. Gir's neck joint is one that you'll want to treat with kid gloves. I noticed that the strain of breaking it free from the paint was almost enough to snap it off down at the body, so don't go cranking on it.

The Tallest fairs much better, and is the most impressive in terms of number of joints. They are very well hidden too, making a nice seamless combination of sculpt and articulation. There's another ball jointed neck, ball jointed shoulders, bicep cut, small joint at the top of the 'gauntlets', wrist, fingers and waist. Most of the joints work pretty well, but I did find that on mine the neck joint was a tad too loose, and his head tends to drop over time. It's also worth nothing that his right hand is removable, to allow the puppet to be popped on.  The turning fingers are particularly useful for holding the various smaller accessories.

Dib has neck, ball jointed shoulders, and wrists. He can shake his fist in frustration, but that pose doesn't work quite as well here, since the head sculpt doesn't support the look.

Ms. Bitters has a ball jointed neck, ball jointed shoulders, wrists and legs (at the top where they meet the body). She's another one that you need to be VERY careful with, especially those wrists. Don't twist them too hard, or you'll snap them right off. She's also one of the few that requires the display stand to keep upright.

Well, maybe that's not quite true. Zim can stand without the base, but the other figures all require it. Even Dib and Gir, who might appear at first to be able to stand on their own, have trouble due to their large heads. I did find some poses for Dib where I managed to get his center of gravity just right, but it's easier just to use the base.

Zim has those dicey joints again, and you'll want to be careful with both his ball jointed shoulders, and his cut wrists at the top of the gloves. He also has neck and waist articulation. Most of your posing possibilities will come from the arms, and there it's still somewhat limited.

While it might seem like the articulation is pretty limited, that's really due to the character designs. Palisades has done their best to apply joints to the rather unique visual style of the characters.

Accessories - ****
Now here's the category that sets this entire series apart, and shows once again the amount of attention Palisades pays to their licenses. They just don't do something like Zim because it's a good license, they do it because they know and love the characters.

Where to about Gir?  Since Gir is the smallest figure, it's not surprising that Palisades put the largest play set with him.  He comes with the 'Saucer Moron Convention Display Base', which is really a chunk of green base, with a crowd rope in front and a convention banner ("UFO Convention Today) across the back.  The front and back banners are actually cloth that runs tightly between the two posts, and is much nicer than I had expected.

In the center of the grass base you can attach a large support for the Flying Pig.  You see, to be inconspicuous, Zim dressed up his personal ship as a giant pig.  As you might expect, that didn't work as well as he'd anticipated.  Either Zim or Gir can fit inside the huge pig, and Zim can handle the controls perfectly with his hand sculpts.  I've included a photo down below of my display shelf, since I put the Hot Topic version of Zim in the pig.  It's just too perfect...

Gir can also stand on the back of the pig, just outside and above the 'cockpit'.  There are two pegs there for his feet, and he fits nicely.  However, I had trouble getting him to stand there and not get in the way of the convention banner, since I wanted the pig to face forward.  If you have the pig displayed facing right or left though, he'll work fine.

Gir also comes with the Saucer Moron Hat, although since we don't have any people figures, there's no morons to wear it.  He also comes with the Suckmonkey cup (be careful with the straw!), and a Krazy Taco bag.

Dib comes with his 'World Invasion Defense Workstation Display Base", which is really the floor and his desk.  A large computer monitor and keyboard are sculpted as part of the desk, but Dib also has a lap top (different colors than the Hot Topic version), external hard drive, media stack, headphones and several file folders.

The Hot Topic and regular accessories can be used in conjunction very easily.  The file folders from here fit inside the briefcase from the HT Dib, and the stickers that are included for the monitor and laptop can be also applied to the laptop from the HT version.

The Almighty Tallest Purple comes with the "Mobile Command Platform Thingy Display Base", along with a bunch of connectors (bendy gray tentacles) and pins to attach four different monitors.  The monitors that came with the HT Tallest can also be attached for extra cool, and there are enough monitor stickers included with this version to cover all the monitors from both figures.

The clear plastic rod that holds up the Tallest doesn't work quite as well this time though, and the pin on one end is a little short.  He wants to fall over a little too easily, and a slightly longer connector end would have solved that.

The Tallest also has his share of smaller accessories, including an Irken soda, Irken donut bag overflowing with donuts, and an Irken burrito.  One of the donuts that came with the HT Gir can also be slipped into the bag.  His left hand is also removable, and the Tallest Red punching doll can be attached easily.

Ms. Bitters is really the lightest when it comes to accessories, but she has some of the coolest.  First, there's the "Skoolroom Display Base", which includes the blackboard and section of floor, plus her teacher's desk.  The blackboard has a nice rendition of what a human looks like, and what an alien looks like, drawn by our own dear Dib.

She also has a wormy apple, a Ms. Bitters nameplate, the choke collar that goes with the 'hall pass' from the HT version, and several ink blot tests.  One of the tests appears to already be filled out by Zim.

Finally, there's Zim himself.  He comes with a "Hidden Subterranean Laboratory Display Base of DOOM!", which recreates his monitor set up in the bowels of his house.  There are three smaller monitors that attach to each other and the larger monitor with various connectors and rods, and just like with the Tallest Purple, you can add in the various monitors from the HT version.  You can also attach the 'brain' accessory from the HT version to the floor of the display base.  There are also enough various monitor stickers included with this one to decorate not just these monitors, but the ones that came with the HT Zim.

Of course, that's not enough, oh no!  There's also a robot bee, mini-moose, Irken sandwich, and a version of Zim's spider-legs.  These legs pop out of his backpack on the show and allow him to do all kinds of interesting things.  Palisades managed to pull this off by having the backpack pop off, and have a second backpack with four articulated legs sticking out.  These legs have four joints each, and the two outer ones pop off and on easily for storage.

The legs aren't sturdy enough to hold Zim up for long though, so it's not really much of a display option.  It was a nice thought, but in the end the execution just wasn't there.

Fun Factor - ***
These are some great sculpts of some great cartoon characters, with reasonable articulation and amazing accessories/play sets. So why not a higher fun factor? The only reason is the fragility of some of the joints and appendages due to the character designs. While they look great, I think most kids would break through these toys in a matter of minutes.

However, if you have a slightly older - or less destructive - child who's a fan of the show, these would be perfect.

Value - ***1/2
If you read my review of the Hot Topic series, you know I slammed them hard in this category. And it should be no surprise, since at $16, you were not getting nearly enough.

But with the regular release series, you get a great figure, several cool accessories, and basically a play set. That's much more in line with what you should expect for fifteen bucks, and you can actually get these figures right now at several locations for even less.

Overall - ***1/2
While there are some individual figures in this series I like better than others - for example, Ms. Bitters is my least favorite, while Gir is tops - the overall score for the series reflects the excellent work on both the sculpting and the accessories.

The Hot Topic set got hit hard by the poor value. You were paying $16 for a figure with a handful of accessories. With this series, you're getting the figure and accessories, PLUS what really amounts to a small play set! The much better value really improves the overall score, and this first series is one of my favorites for the year.

If you're a big fan of the show, you can't go wrong. And this week, Media Play and Suncoast are having a 25% off all action figures sale, so you can pick these up at the stores for under $12!

Things to Watch Out For - 
This is a new section I'm adding to reviews to highlight various comments I've made in the review that are worth watching out for.

With Zim figures, this revolves around being careful with the joints. Breakage is easy when you're dealing with such small parts, and Gir's neck, Ms. Bitters wrists, and Zim's arms are all candidates for snap, crackle and pop.

It's also important to be very careful with many of the smaller accessories.  I managed to break the straw on the Suckmonkey cup, and almost broke one of the joints on Zim's spider legs.  

Packaging - ***
Sculpt - Gir, Dib, Tallest Purple ****; Zim, Bitters ***1/2
Paint - ***1/2
Articulation - The Tallest ***; Dib, Zim, Ms. Bitters **1/2; Gir **
Accessories - ****
Fun Factor - ***
Value - ***1/2
Overall - ***1/2

Where to Buy - 
I've seen these at both Suncoast and Media Play so far. You can also find these at lots of on-line choices:

- Clark Toys has a the figures at $15 each, or a full set of five for just $65. If you're looking for a set, that's a pretty good deal.

- Killer Toys has the individual figures for $15, or the set of five for $70.

- CornerStoreComics has the individual figures for $15, or the set of five for $72.

I have a TON of additional photos, comparing the HT and regular versions, along with some other fun shots.  Keep scrolling down for all the shots!

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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