I figured Imaginext's great series of blind-bagged figures was over after the cutback on the number of figures in and the difficulty in finding Series 2 but I was quite wrong. Out of nowhere this third series started showing up at retail recently (June of 2014) with little fanfare, which is a shame because in some ways it is the best series yet!
The first series came packed in the classic Imaginext color of yellow while Series 2 came in a green package. This time out we get blue... well, mostly blue. For some bizarre reason they opted to go with a pretty light sky-blue shade that fades down into the classic yellow. It is remarkably weak package design as the soft blue doesn't "jump" out at you the same way the vibrant yellow and green does of the earlier series'. Worse yet is the fade to yellow which not only looks a bit wonky but can also lead to confusion with the still abundant Series 1, and indeed it seems like the figures are being placed in the same or identical cardboard boxes to that series so be prepared to hunt attentively for these things - It's quite possible I had walked by these several times without realizing they were new. While the front of the package is sure to lose some battles the back continues the trend previously set forth of showing the silhouette of a generic figure filled in with (a much better hue of) blue and, of course, the ONLY way to reasonably do blind-bagged figures - a numbered code in the top left corner indicating the contents of the package. And what of said contents? Let us take a look!
GILLMAN!!!! You guys know I love me some Gillman so this is an incredibly exciting release for me. He is so excellent for so many reasons! First, clearly he's a riff on my beloved Creature from the Black Lagoon, and thus he ties in with the unofficial Universal Movie Monster sub-theme in the line (including the Mummy in Series 1, Frankenstein in Series 2, and Dracula also here in Series 3). Being a sea-beast he will also fight mightily against the Diver from Series 1, Aquaman or even the Pirates! Gilly comes with a fairly nice, geometric trident and a pretty cool aqua-helmet, enabling him to battle on dry land! The helmet is a really cool design and interestingly they sculpted bubbles into the interior to really sell the water-filled effect. It's a cool touch, which honestly I'm kinda iffy on it since it limits reuse for this piece (which would look great on a Flash Gordon style figure). Also interestingly, while most of the figures have the Imaginext "encircled I" sculpted on them this guy doesn't, and instead gets the logo printed on the back of his left leg (which seems common suddenly with this series). While he has all the standard articulation of the line his head sadly does not turn. It's kind of a weird design and almost looks mask-ish, but I understand they're limited in staying away from the Creature, and other similar designs. I would LOVE to see them tackle a whole underwater theme and repaint and/or re-head this guy as some kind of cool Deep One-ish battle builder!
WOW - I've gotta say I'm kinda surprised they made a Zombie in this line, but that certainly betrays how mainstream the undead has become, or just how adult/collector focused this line has become (or both). This isn't the greatest Zombie toy ever made but it fits in with the Imaginext aesthetic quite well. There is something kind of Plants vs Zombies about him, which probably has something to do with the tapping-into-familiar-properties angle this series seems to have. In fact, I'd say that's absolutely what's going on here since a) that's a "kid-friendly" property and b) this guy inexplicably comes with a weed whacker. What's very cool, though, is that he also gets a great head-bag with a single eye-hole. Not only is that just conceptually super, super creepy it also is lifted from Friday the 13th Part 2! All we need now is a generic, overall-ed farmer and bingo - Imaginext Jason! Much like the Gillman, this will likely be tough to find since is highly battle-build-able.
The best guess I've seen as to this guy's generic personality is "Cossack" though it's pretty darn clear this is Santa Claus from Rise of the Gaurdians, a look so cool and distinctive this is arguably of questionable legality. But who cares, he's great! I expected this figure to be a middle-of-the-road release for me but he's actually really fun in-hand. His two swords look fantastic and they have a squared off section just above the hilt which allows them to fit into clips on the back of his coat, and they look equally cool hilt or blade up! In fact, he's essentially the rarest of all Imaginext figures, he looks equally great with or without his removable gear. If I can find another I will absolutely get a second one!
Well, not everything could be roses, I guess. Pretty much the laziest thing for a kid-aimed toy line could do (short of a Punk Rock guy) is to make a Skateboarder. And to ensure that he's as undesirable as possible they made this douche as generic as humanly possible. I almost kind of like his alt-culture take on the Imaginext logo, if it weren't so obviously ripping off the Napster design (and possibly some other skater or headphone logos). Pass on this guy like he's the plague. Cause he is.
Punk Rocker (#38)
Oh... and then there's a Punk Rock guy too... Gee, can he have a mohawk and a guitar? YAWN. I guess this is just a result of Mattel's overbearing, soul-crushing battle against all that is good and exciting about toys. Rather than the nice mix of decent to great figures in the previous waves the designers were forced to make terrible ones to offset the many excellent ones in this series.
It's a little odd that we're suddenly getting two monsters in one series, but mayhap the designers had to double up to ensure we get both Dracula and the Gillman before the line was cancelled - and I'm all the happier for it. This is a pretty good, if overly generic, Dracula. There is something very "mariachi" about his outfit, particularly the skull patterns on his lapels. He gets a huge red gargoyle-ish bat which looks pretty neat but its "claws" are sculpted in a funnel like shape that means it can only be "worn" in one specific way and it can't stand on its own. Dracula also gets a simple but cool cape - I really dig the wrap-around look to it as opposed to an all-to-familiar chain or medallion.
Hazmat Technician (#40)
I only found out about Series 3 because the fandom sort of exploded with the revelation of this figure since everyone looks at him unmasked and sees Walter White from Breaking Bad. Not me, but I've never watched the show (yes, it's the best thing ever, I know) and the hood-up kind of lessens the effect, but people seem really excited about it and based on the multitude of near-infringements in the rest of the series I think that intention by the designers is quite probable. Me though? I just really dig hazmat suits! I particularly love the gasmask he's sporting and definitely wanted me a small army of these guys. The only thing missing, for me, is metallic blue paint on the eyes/goggles, but that's easy enough to add myself. The figure also comes with an odd canister/nozzle thing with he can just barely hold with both hands. I should also note that the head is non-articulated.
Bomb Squad Technician (#41)
This is the sole middle-of-the-road figure for me in this series. He's a good design and value but just nothing too exciting for me. The wink-y smirk is kind of a weird choice, but what are ya gonna do? He comes with what should be a very cool little bomb-droid but sadly its articulation leads to disappointment. All four wheels are separate pieces and turn perfectly and the central arm is separate too, but for some very weird reason the joint, which should be a wonderful backwards/forwards hinge/clip is so restricted it basically just rocks a couple millimeters in either direction. If the joint wasn't there I wouldn't miss it, but since it is I'm just somewhat overwhelmed by how ineffective it is.