When I first saw McFarlane’s Walking Dead figures, I had somewhat mixed feelings. They were rather pricey, especially considering they were only 5″ tall, but on the other hand: Walking Dead action figures! In the end, I bought a Series 1 Rick Grimes and a zombie biter. Honestly, I wasn’t too blown away by them. The sculpts were decent enough, but the articulation was mostly useless due to the pre-posed nature of the figure’s designs. The “action-features” added to the zombies were also kind of lame, and didn’t work very well. Series 2 was much the same. Fortunately, McFarlane took criticism about the range on board and drastically improved things with Series 3.
Merle Dixon was introduced in the first Season of The Walking Dead TV series. Neither he nor his brother Daryl were characters in the original comic and were created specifically for the show. Merle is the older of the two and proved to be quite the troublemaker. He ends up chained to a roof and has to hack off his right hand to escape the zombie hordes. He eventually re-appears in Season 3 as one of the Governer’s lackeys. It’s this version of Merle that we get as an action figure. And it’s a good’n.
The Series 3 packaging is much improved from the overlarge blister packs from Series 1 and features a compact carded blister pack that clearly shows off the figure and accessories. The graphics on the card are simple but effective: the prison from Season 3 of the show heads the card along with some blood splatters.
Merle is played by Michael Rooker and the face sculpt is dead on. You can almost hear his gravelly voice coming from the figure. The rest of the sculpt is equally superb, with small, sharp details. His clothes are suitably textured to indicate the different materials they’re made from. All the wrinkles give the appearance he’s been living in them for a while. The metal cover over the stump of his right arm features all the straps and supports as seen on the show, and a non-removable bayonet is attached to it. The blade could stand to be a bit longer and more pointed, but is adequate considering the scale.
Extra details on the figure include two sheaths peeking out from under the shirt – one for the bayonet, one for an extra knife – and a holster for his hand gun. The holster is functional, but the extra knife sheath is moulded closed so you can’t insert the loose knife accessory into it. It’s difficult to access under the stiff plastic of the open shirt in any case. Finally there are a couple of assault rifle ammo pouches strapped to his left leg.
Aside from the prosthetic pig-sticker, Merle is armed with a Browning .45 pistol, a knife, and an ArmaLite AR-15 with a strap extension so it can be used one handed. The pistol is a great little sculpt and fits in either his remaining hand or the holster perfectly. The loose knife is similar to the bayonet, and can be held reasonably well in the left hand. The AR-15 looks accurate to the real weapon but it seems a little thick/oversized to me. I also found it difficult to get the strap to sit naturally around Merle’s neck.
Hands down the biggest improvement to these figures is the articulation. Merle gets a ball-jointed neck, along with ball and swivel shoulders and left elbow. The right arm has a swivel elbow with a cut joint just above the rolled sleeve. I guess it was done this way to work around the strap detail on the arm. The left wrist can swivel and pivot comfortably. One thing that’s missing is a waist joint which would have been nice, but isn’t critical. The hips get balls joints, but these are restricted somewhat by the shirt. Finally, swivel knees and ball/rocker ankles allow the figure to stand very stably, although movement here is more limited than with the arms.
The paint apps on the figure are quite good overall. The skin tones are nice and even and don’t obscure any sculpted details. Mine could use a little more flesh tone around the neck line as there is some overspray from the white of the vest/T-shirt. A subtle five o’clock shadow adds character to the face. There are a couple of darker specs that have got onto the chin, but considering his grimy appearance, they’re not too noticeable so I’ll give that a pass.
The clothes are suitably grimy, with stains and dust here and there. The shirt sleeves seem to have received a slightly darker wash than the rest of the shirt, but not enough to stand out too much. The weakest part of the paint job are straps on the ammo pouches and prosthetic. These could definitely be sharper and could stand a little touch up paint.
I love this figure. It’s got a great likeness, solid articulation, and good accessories. The paint could be a little better, but it’s great to see a company actually make genuine improvements to what started out as such a lackluster product. I still think they’re a bit on the pricey side, but my enthusiasm for this range is very much rekindled. I can’t wait for the new version of Daryl that’s coming soon so the Dixon brothers can stand side-by-side on my shelf.