If there's one thing to remember about the toy industry, it's "never underestimate Todd McFarlane." Of course, that used to mean his toys were always better than you expected; these days it means that no matter how good a license he gets, he'll find a way to screw it up.
When the Walking Dead figures were announced at this year's Toy Fair, the official press release said they'd be 6". Days later Todd himself said they'd be 5", and there was never any clarification about which was right. That means we've had to wait eight months to learn the truth. Last week the figures began appearing at Toys Я Us, bringing two pieces of bad news: one, they really were 5" figures; and two, they cost $20. Fortunately this set, available only through Previews, provided a slight discount.
The line is actually two lines: one for the comic,
and a second for the tv show. The comic figures came out first and include two zombies, both of which are included here. First we have the Zombie Roamer. As far as zombies go, he appears to be a fairly fresh one: he still has a face, for one thing, and only the skin on his arms is starting to show signs of decaying. His shirt has no sleeves and isn't buttoned in the front, but remember that the series started in Atlanta, so it's entirely possible he was dressed that way to begin with. One leg of his pants has been torn off, and he's only got one shoe. Other than the axe sunk into his skull and the various wounds, this could easily be someone on People of Walmart.
So, what wounds does he have? there are patches
of skin missing on his right leg, revealing the stringy muscles beneath. His left knee seems to be broken, or at least severely scraped. There are finger marks on his stomach, his chest is dried out to the point where you can see his ribs through the skin, and there are small holes on his arms. His spine is exposed, and in addition to the axe in his skull, there's a knife in his back. The skin on his cheek is torn, there's a slash across his face and one eye is milky white. Oh, and his head explodes.
Seriously, press the button on the small of his back and hs head splits in two as a geyser of blood shoots out
of his neck. The inside of the skull is detailed very nicely, but the "splatter" just isn't as good as NECA's effort. It's made from soft PVC, so it will fit down into the neck and spread out later, but that also means it sometimes doesn't have enough force to push apart the halves of the head. Still, this is a really fun play feature, as far as zombie toys go. The knife in his back is the switch that resets it, and whoever designed that deserves credit for being clever and working the engineering into the sculpt.
Next we have the Zombie Lurker. What's the difference? Roamers wander around in search of food, Lurkers sit in one place and wait for food to come to them. It's not a different strategy or anything: it's just that they've been dead longer and don't have the ability to hunt any more. And you can see it, looking at the figure: compared to the Roamer Zombie, the Lurker is drier and more desiccated; that one looks like he'd be juicy if you shot him (as evidenced by the blood-splosion action feature), while this one just looks like he'd tear dryly. He's wearing no shoes, but does have jeans and a T-shirt. Well, the remnants of them: his jeans have big rips on the legs and butt (looks like while he was alive a zombie tried to grab him by the pocket) and his shirt is torn off mid-torso. It only has one remaining sleeve, and there are several large tears both front and back.
The head is just as dried out as the body. The skin is pulled tight around the facebones, making the Lurker look more skeletal than the Roamer. His eyes are two white dots in sunken sockets, and his nose is entirely rotted away. The majority of his hair has fallen out: it's not male pattern baldness, because it's not following a pattern; his scalp just got too dry.
All the Walking Dead zombies have a removable limb play feature: they're held on by pegs, and pull apart without much trouble. Todd said in an interview that they'd have "interchangeable" parts, but that's wrong. Hell, we could tell you that was wrong from looking at the Toy Fair prototypes. Not all the zombies come apart in the same place, you know? The Roamer comes apart at the right forearm and the left biceps: the Lurker splits at the left shoulder and wrist, and the top half of the head (complete with the intact brain in there). The interior edges of the divides are sculpted to look like muscle, and the pegs that hold them on are designed like bones.
The Lurker takes that a step further, and actually pulls in half at the torso. This exposes ribs and intestines, as well as some removable squishy guts. He's going on the list! As the packaging proclaims, this turns him into a Zombie Crawler, which seems an accurate enough name. He even has a swivel/hinge joint under his ribcage, so you can pose the entrails slightly. It's pretty cool, and adds a lot of display options.
While we're talking articulation, though, we should point out how these things move. They both share swivel/hinge shoulders, hinged elbows, and hinged knees. The action features dictate what the joints will be like in the torso: Roamer can't have a neck, since the blood is in there, but he does have a waist; Lurker can't have a waist because of the removable chest, but he has a swivel/hinge neck so he can look up when he's on the ground. Roamer has V-hips and a swivel
in the right thigh, while Lurker has no hips, but does get swivels in both thighs and a swivel/hinge for the right foot. One thing they do have in common, though? If you line up the sculpted elements, you can't get both feet flat on the ground at the same time. Way to go, guys!
The real draw of this set is the black and white paintscheme. The comics are in black and white, and due to fan requests at SDCC 2010, the first episode of the tv series is available in black and white on the DVD release. Black and white just "works" for zombies, you kow? But as you can see, these actually get bloody red paint apps, too, to keep them from looking dull (and to keep us from faking the effect via b&w photos of the real toys.
If Todd had made these figures in a normal scale - 6" to fit with comicbook toys, 7" to fit with movie toys, or even 4" to fit with Hasbro's main product - they'd be Toy of the Year contenders. They have great sculpts and are really a blast to play with. The articulation isn't great, but it serves. So the downfall of these figures is the scale. We have no idea why Todd thought the 5" scale would be even worth considering, let alone why he implemented it. And there's no way a 5" figure should cost $20, not when NECA can sell 7" figures for $15, or even $10. The toys are well-made and fun, but we can't recommend you buy them. There's just no value here.