The eight series of Walking Dead action figures is here, featuring some really nice figures in something of an oddball wave. The latest set of toys features a new, bearded Rick, ever-sanctimonious Dale, wandering badass Morgan, Eugene, and Bob. As we’ve come to expect from this toy line, all the figures are very well sculpted, and feature a decent amount of articulation. But while it’s probably safe to say there’s something for most people to love within this collection, some of the choices here just seem bizarre.
Let me say this first– Walking Dead Series 8 is a disappointing first for the series in a few ways. It’s the first wave in this line to not feature any zombie action figures, and– more importantly– one of the few to not include any female characters. Honestly, with the AMC hit’s focus on human drama, I can live without the Walkers (no pun intended), but it’s vexing to see a line remiss of any of the women from the show yet to join this refreshingly inclusive toy line. I’m not arguing that the characters we get here are unworthy of inclusion, but when we have yet to see Beth (coming in Series 9 as we already know), Rosita, Lori, Sasha, Deanna, or any of the other memorable women from the TV show, I wish McFarlane had spaced out these particular characters to allow a bit more diversity.
But let’s look at what we do get with this lineup… or, at least, the figures I opted to pick up. Dale is one of the last early-season characters we had yet to see in some form in this series, and I’m glad he received a figure as nice as this one. Full disclosure– I HATED Dale and his holier-than-thou attitude on the show, but Jeffrey DeMunn is one of my favorite actors, and I could not pass up the opportunity to buy him in toy form. His figure is very good, featuring Dale’s ever-present fisherman hat and dirty Hawaiian shirt, as well as a very strong portrait of DeMunn, and he comes packed with lots of great accessories including a pair of binoculars, a hunting rifle, and a functional folding chair perfect for planting atop a 5″ scale RV.
Morgan’s story has always been an interesting arc in the world of The Walking Dead, as he weaves in and out of the lives of Rick and his fellow survivors time and again, before finally joining them. The AMC show has followed Morgan a bit more closely, making him one of the better characters they’ve got, in my opinion. The traveling badass version of Morgan, seen at the end of Season 5, is the design McFarlane opted to go with for his figure, and I think it’s a smart decision, as he’s cool to look at, and a break from the “guy in normal clothes” aesthetic this line has to contend with.
Lennie James’ portrait is another success, and I really like the alternate, masked head which can swap onto this figure to complete his wilderness survival look. Morgan also includes a removable backpack, walking stick, and an assault rifle, and between this gear and his weathered jacket and shin guards, he truly seems like somebody who could hold their own against the forces of nature and the undead. The figure features a removable hood, although the final production version has lost his second hood piece, sculpted to be folded down. While this piece, seen in the prototype images, would have been a nice added detail, its loss isn’t a dealbreaker, especially when there’s so much else to love about this figure.
Eugene was always one of the more fun Walking Dead characters, in my opinion, and his inclusion in the toy line gives Abraham someone to pal around with. The Josh McDermitt portrait on this figure is another win for McFarlane’s design team, but I’m a little disappointed they opted for the rarely-seen body armor for their Eugene figure. After selling everyone on his lie that he was a super-smart scientist who could cure the zombie apocalypse, the survivors decked out our bemulleted would-be hero with the last suit of riot gear from the prison, an extra level of protection for what they thought was the world’s most valuable brain. It’s cool, and again breaks up the dullness of another human in street clothes… but on the show, Eugene wore this stuff for less than two episodes. If he were a bigger character, one likely to get a variant or two down the road, I wouldn’t be as bummed, but with this being a likely candidate as the only Eugene figure in this collection, not getting him in his shorts and sloppy t-shirt is a disappointment.
What we DO get with Eugene, though, is a rifle complete with new sling to make it easier to drape over his shoulder, a riot gear helmet, which his glorious hair prevents him from wearing, and a backpack that, like Morgan’s is removable. I should note that the new backpacks in this wave are a huge improvement over older figures. Whereas in the past you had to heat the soft plastic straps then gingerly maneuver them over the figure’s arms and shoulders while hoping they don’t tear off sometimes ended badly, the new packs feature one strap which is not glued in place, only held via force tension of a male-female socket on the pack itself. This means the strap can be removed then re-attached, making it much, much easier to take on and off with no fear of breakage. It’s a huge relief, and I’m hopeful McFarlane will continue to employ this design option in future backpacks and other similar accessories.
I wish I didn’t feel like this latest wave was such a mixed bag, because the individual figures are really well done. But between uninspired character selection and odd decisions like cutting Morgan’s second hood and outfitting Eugene in riot gear, this wave just doesn’t have the same magic as some of the past greats we’ve seen from McFarlane’s toy line. I’m hopeful Series 9 will be able to course-correct the series, as the character selection is certainly more exciting than what we have this round… and even if it doesn’t, we’ll at least see Beth finally take her place in the toy line.