A long time ago, in a toy-collecting era far, far away... when the only real collectible toy company went by the name McFarlane, the licensing rights to the film Evil Dead 2 were such a cluster%* that nobody seemed to actually know who owned them. Toy fans begged for a figure of Ashley J. Williams, the reluctant hero played by Bruce Campbell, for years - to no avail. McFarlane Toys finally came up with a somewhat clever solution, by securing the rights to the film's sequel, Army of Darkness, and then just making an Ash figure from the prologue of that movie, effectively giving us Ash how he appeared in Evil Dead 2. Unfortunately, that figure was just terrible in a whole host of ways.
NECA, who long ago took McFarlane's crown (and most of his head along with it), has produced a couple of AoD Ash figures in their "Cult Classics" line, but even they didn't seem to be able
to solve the puzzle box of ED2's licensing dilemma until recently, with the release of their Evil Dead 2 line of figures that is now in its second series. I held off on "Farewell to Arms" Ash from the first series, because I knew that the iconic Ash figure, known as "Hero Ash" would be in the next series. And now that he's finally out, I can share my thoughts with you, dear readers.
Full disclosure: it's been quite some time since I watched Evil Dead 2. But from what I can recall, it was playing on a near infinite loop in my college years. It struck just the right balance of horror and comedy, not being too disturbingly "gross-out" like Evil Dead, and lacking the balls-out absurd campiness of Army of Darkness (somewhat unrelated note: I was never really clear on whether ED2 was a sequel to ED or more of a remake, though it always seemed like the latter). So while I'm not going around shouting "Hey! I'll swallow your soul!" (which I may or may not have done in my dorm days) I still hold a fondness in my heart for the middle film in Sam Raimi's trilogy.
So I was pretty excited for Hero Ash. This is the Ash that casual fans of the film (if those exist) will be more apt to recognize, due to the iconic chainsaw hand. But that's not all that separates this Ash from the "Farewell to Arms" figure from the previous series: He now has a torn shirt, a bare left arm, and a torn sleeve on his right arm. The legs are the same as FtE Ash (and Deadite Ash for that matter), as is the head sculpt, and quite possibly the bare torso underneath
the PVC shirt piece, but it's hard to tell since the shirt covered the entire torso on the previous figures.
The sculpt is exceptional. The Bruce Campbell likeness is spot-on (at least sculpturally - more on that later), which isn't surprising since NECA has had some practice with Campbell in the past (two AoD Ashes and an
Elvis Sebastian Haff figure from Bubba Ho-Tep). The chainsaw has a ton of intricate sculpted detail. The torn shirt is also very nice, covered in straps and buckles, and featuring a holster in the back for Ash's shotgun.
The paint is very good, but I feel like there's one area where it detracts
slightly from the sculpt. The head sculpt sees the most complex paint apps, and it's mostly the same as FtE Ash, except with a few more scratches to indicate the damage the character has accrued throughout the film. I'm not crazy about the guy-liner, but it does help sell the "wild-eyed" expression, which is accurate the the film; it wasn't until Army of Darkness that Ash really became the smooth, confident hero. In the Evil Dead films, he is driven to near insanity by the horrible events going on around him, and the figure's expression reflects that.
Where I'm not as sold is the eyebrows. If you look at the prototype figure on the packaging, you'll see that the eyebrows are placed slightly lower on the brow of the face than they are on the actual production figure. It's a very minor tweak, but it detracts ever so slightly from the likeness, bringng the Bruce Campbell-ness of the figure from a 10 to a 9. The figure's eyebrows are sculpted, but the paint doesn't line up with them.
The rest of the paint is great. There are a lot of washes
and dry-brushing, both to bring out detail and to indicate that Ash is covered in dirt and gore. I like that the areas of heavy blood spatter are rendered in glossy paint, and I also like the occasional light blue dry-brushing on the shirt used to indicate the few dry areas in a garment otherwise covered in sweat and other gross Deadite-related gunk. The shirt doesn't quite reach the belt like it should, however.
The articulation on these figures is way better than any previous Ash figures, but it's essentially exactly
the same as Deadite and FtE Ash, so I'll refer you to those reviews to get the breakdown. This figure does reveal the balljointed torso joint, thanks to the torn shirt. I'm not crazy about the V-crotch hips, but this is NECA, so I guess we're lucky that a figure wearing pants based on a live action film has any articulation at all in the hips. It wouldn't be so bad, but the gap in the joint on my figure is very visible. Honestly though, it shouldn't be a huge issue for those of us who remember the days of McFarlane's ridiculously pre-posed Ash.
And then there are the accessories.
Hero Ash has his trusty "boomstick", now conveniently shortened in the barrel department. It fits nicely in the holster on his back. He gets one other accessory, and frankly I think it's one of the best accessories of all time, and if it doesn't win ToY for Best Accessory of 2012 then I'll swallow my own soul.
I'm speaking, of course, about the possessed deer head. At one point in the film, Ash seems to get a brief break from all the insanity. He tries
to sit down on a chair and it prompty breaks beneath him and he falls right on his butt. He hears a creak, and then looks up to see the mounted deer head on the wall turn toward him and laugh hysterically at his misfortune. Soon every object in the house is laughing at Ash, from the desk lamp to the books to the cabinets to the pictures on the wall. Pretty soon even Ash gets in on the laughing, totally giving himself over to insanity. It's one of the greatest scenes in the film, striking
the absolute perfect balance between humor and horror. It's both hilarious and disturbing.
The accessory itself is sculpted and painted wonderfully, and even gets a balljoint at the neck so it can creakily turn to mock Hero Ash. It sadly doesn't have any way to mount it onto a wall (a hole in the back for a nail or something like that would have been nice), but a little bit of double-sided tape will let you mount it anywhere you wish, and really jumps the figure into must-have territory.
Sometimes, if you wait long enough, it pays off. It was a long time coming, but we finally get an amazing, iconic, well-done all-around figure of Ash from Evil Dead 2. If you only get one figure from this line, this is hands down the version to choose. Even if it wasn't the best version of Ash ever (and it very much is), the deer head alone makes it worth the purchase.