Monday, March 5, 2012

REVIEW: SLUG Zombies Series #1 12-Pack

Produced by Jacks Pacific | Released March 2012

Scary Little Ugly Guys - or SLUGs - is a new line of 2'' tall, Keshi-style collectible figures from Jakks Pacific.

Over the coming months we're promised a variety of themed releases under the SLUG ''umbrella'' title, including Monsters, Aliens and more. The first Series - themed around ''Zombies'' - landed at retail this weekend in two forms: the three-figure blister pack and  - the subject of today's Review - the twelve-figure ''coffin'' pack

SLUG Zombies Series 1
The first wave of Series 1 SLUG figures features sixteen undead characters. Without wanting to start on a negative note, it's a little disappointing to see such limited numbers, given that Jakks Pacific's promotional materials at the New York Toy Fair talked of almost a hundred figures. Presumably that's how many they have designed and planned for the future, but it's still slightly misleading and I was expecting more. However, at least we know more are coming...


It's also rather annoying to see the way in which Jakks Pacific has elected to release the figures: the twelve figure pack contains four figures not found in the three-figure blister packs (Cap'n Scurvy Jack, Gutslingin' Grimm, Inspector Bones and Erik the Dead  - as shown above) and the three-figure packs have their own exclusive releases (Headless Halpert, Piece Mail Pete, Officer RIP and Mighty-Bite Mac* for those keeping track). So if you want to get your hands on all sixteen figures you'll need to buy the twelve-pack AND all four three-packs. In a line of just 16 figures, that leaves you with a whopping 50% of the line-up as duplicates. That strikes me as less to do with encouraging schoolyard trading and swaps (as every collector will already have the eight ''common'' figures) as it is with cynically exploiting collectors to make money. I really don't like that.

Adding variant colorways would have softened this blow somewhat, because - as a collector - I'm not quite so hung-up on duplicates if they're in a different color. And yes, I appreciate Jakks Pacific want to color-theme each wave to the subject but I really do think they should have taken a page out of the Monster in my Pocket playbook on this one...

But with all those points out of the way, let's look at the toys themselves.

* Interestingly this figure was originally called ''Bite Tyson.'' I wonder where they got that idea from...?

Packaging
The twelve-figure pack comes in a rather cool-looking coffin-shaped box. The front artwork prominently displays the name and features a few of the SLUG Zombies peeking out. I think it would have been a good idea to feature the four pack-exclusive figures rather than a random assortment of characters here but I can live with what they've done here and it's eye-catching enough.


The rear of the pack features a breakdown of the twelve figures within. The illustrations are a pretty accurate representation of the figures, so as the line expands there should be no confusion over which figures are found within.

Sadly no matter how I tried, I was unable to open the packaging without damaging it slightly. I guess that's the price we pay for a cool, coffin-shaped box but I would have liked to be able to keep it for storage purposes. On the plus-side though, Jakks Pacific will be releasing a storage/carrying case later this year.

The figures are held within on a plastic restraining tray. There's not really much that can be damaged in-transit although my King Guts did have a slightly bent ankle, which makes getting him to stand a little difficult. That aside though, the packaging is pretty neat and certainly eye-catching.

The Zombies
As this is a rather unusual Review - given there are twelve figures, none of which are articulated or painted - I'm going to instead simply provide an image of each along with some brief comments and a rating for each.

King Guts

This Pharaoh-themed zombie is one of my personal favorites. I'm a big fan of the more ''monstrous'' design here and there's a neat mix of bone and wrapping that make him my stand-out figure of the line.

Rating: A-

Cap'n Scurvy Jack

I have to admit Cap'n Scurvy Jack doesn't really leap-out of the line-up (figuratively, I mean.) Whilst there's not a massive amount wrong with him, I'm not really a fan of pirates. There's a pretty neat kind of Scooby Doo villain look about him though, which has its appeal, although given he's one of the twelve-pack exclusives, he should really be a little more exciting.

Rating: B

Inspector Bones

The obvious question here is ''why isn't he called Sherlock Bones?'' The answer - there's probably a movie about a dog detective that already uses that name. (OK, I was close - it's actually an agency that finds lost pets...)

Inspector Bones is actually a pretty good figure: there's some good detail on his sculpt (such as the tweed on his deerstalker and the cracks on his magnifying glass), he's pretty identifiable as a Sherlock Holmes-inspired character (thanks to the cliched trappings) and his pose is cool. Again though, like Cap'n Scurvy Jack I'm not sure if he's strong enough to be an exclusive figure.

Rating: B+

Grave Lincoln

Even if he was nothing more than a great pun, Grave Lincoln would be excellent. Thankfully the gag is backed-up with a really great figure. The detail on the character elements - such as his stovepipe hat and chinstrap beard - are excellent and he's caught in a fantastic mid-shamble pose. And although it may be in bad taste, I love that his bio reads that his pet hate is ''theater seating.''

Rating: A-

Neil Armgone

There's a fantastic chunkiness to the first zombie on the moon, which gives him a quite unique look among the other SLUG figures and I could see him being popular among traders/collectors (if Jakks Pacific hadn't ruined that by making him so common.) Again, there's some cool detail on the figure - I especially like the busted-open space helmet - but the missing limb is a little difficult to spot at first. And I keep referring to him as ''Neil Armsgone'' (as in ''arm's gone''), which seems more natural...

Rating: B+

The Corroding Kid

A parody of the Karate Kid and his famous Crane stance pose, the Corroding Kid is - I have to admit - one of the weaker figures. The sculpt is fine for what it is and the facial design in particular is cool but it seems one of the lower-on-the-list kind of jokes.

Rating: B

Rigormortis Lourdes

The zombie cheerleader sports a couple of neat pom-poms (in the form of severed heads) but beyond that I'm not a that impressed with this one - probably because I get the feeling there's a joke or pop culture reference in her name I'm not getting. Anybody?

Rating: B

Gutslingin' Grimm

Gutslingin' Grimm is a Wild West sheriff, complete with six-shooter, spurs and hat. Oh and an awesome mustache. The figure itself isn't one of my favorites (again, he's an exclusive figure that isn't the best) but I do like the bullet-riddled detail, even if the character doesn't really look that zombified. And no, that's not a typo - it is indeed Gutslingin' Grimm.

Rating: B

Jon B. Gone

Along with Decayin' Dom (see below), Jon B. Gone is one of the more unusual, ''grounded'' figures in the line-up. Bursting from his coffin, Jon B. Gone is a seriously chunky, solid-feeling figure and - despite the oddity of his design (or maybe because of it) - I really dig this figure. The character design is unique, the sculpt has some great detail (such as the bite on his arm and the vacant look on his face) and the execution of such elements as the wood grain all work superbly.

Rating: A-

Brain-Eatin' Brandon

Of the ''modern'' zombies, Brain-Eatin' Brandon is certainly one of the best. I love that there's a strong concept here that's been executed well and although Brandon himself may not be massively detailed (and his proportions are seriously messed-up), the brain-in-a-pizza-box gag is superbly executed.

Rating: B+

Decayin' Dom

Your views on Decayin' Dom will probably be based on (A) whether you've ever seen the Return of the Living Dead and (B) if you appreciate somebody parodying it. Personally I love this SLUG tribute to the Tarman but even beyond that, he's still a great figure. The ''emerging from a barrel'' concept is great, the figure's design is excellently detailed (I love the mix of bones and ooze) and there's a superb weightiness to the figure.

Rating: A-

Erik the Dead

Erik the Dead is the last of the twelve-pack exclusive figures. Again, I find it odd he's been granted that stauts, as he's really not the most exciting of the line-up in my view. What's here is fine and all but I just don't get ''zombie'' from this one. Maybe a missing limb or more ragged clothing would have helped to convey his undead condition. I don't know... He's solid enough for what he is but there are stronger figures in the range.

Rating: B

Extras

The SLUG Zombies Series #1 12-Pack features a full-color collector checklist, featuring all sixteen figures released in the first wave, along with an illustration of each character and a brief bio detailing their likes, dislikes and favorite food. It's a fun little read with some genuinely funny gags, plus it serves as a cool way to keep track of which figures you have.

Final Thoughts
Whilst I love the figures and concept and I think SLUGs could be the Next Big Thing, I'm not a fan at all of the way in which Jakks Pacific has released these toys. Part of the appeal of Keshi-style figures is the blind-bag trading/collecting aspect of the toy and sadly Jakks Pacific don't seem to understand that. It comes off as either misguided or incredibly cynical of the company to release a sixteen-figure range of figures that then require collectors to re-purchase the same identical eight figures again if they wish to complete the set. Yes, all lines like this have their chase variants and ''Rares'' but not to this extent. I wish they'd either mix-up the multi-packs, release a wider range of figures, add an assortment of colorways or put them out as singles, as the current system is a real black mark against the SLUG line.

On the plus-side, the figures themselves are excellent. There's a great sense of humor on display here, the figures - on the whole - have strong concepts and the execution is, for the most part, great. If you were (or still are) a fan of lines like Monster in my Pocket or MUSCLE and you're looking to get yourself a new line of cool little rubber guys, then you'll love the SLUG figures.

The twelve-pack retails at $9.99, which is superb value, given that you get twelve figures. The three-packs don't represent quite such good value for money, retailing at $3.99 for three figures. But that's still a pretty good price. But if you'd like to get a complete set (including those eight duplicates) you're looking at around $26 plus change. On the one hand that's a little pricey but given the allowance-level pricing and that purchases could be spaced-out over the course of a few weeks, it's not that bad.

For sheer number value, the twelve-pack - obviously - represents the best value but personally if I had a do-over moment I'd probably shell-out the extra few bucks for the four three-packs, as - from what I've seen of them - their exclusive figures are stronger. But, like I say, you really can't beat 12 figures for $10.

I just hope Jakks Pacific rethinks their packaging policy, broadens the number of figures in the line and adds some blind-boxed/bagged singles to the range, as with some minor tweaks like that the SLUG figures could go from being hugely popular to being the next collecting phenomenon.

Definitely a line to watch.

Final Score: A-

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