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Captain Deadbeard & Kernel Corn

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2
by yo go re

Diamond Select Toys followed up their first fun series of Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare toys with a second that introduced variant characters, included the accessories cut from the first series, and also never showed up anywhere near me. But now Garden Warfare 2 is getting toys!

Frozen in a block of ice, Captain Deadbeard has been adrift for hundreds of years. Having just arrived on the shores of Zomburbia with his trusty Parrot Pal, he's crusty, a little musty, and ready to bring the fight to the Plants.

In addition to being an NPC who hands out quests, Captain Deadbeard is also a playable character in GW2. That seems greedy - no need to hog all the roles, Cap!

As you can probably guess by the fact that he has the word "beard" in his name, ol' Deadbeard, here, is a pirate - like, a full-on, sail-the-seven-seas/avast-me-hearties-yo-ho pirate. Honestly, what were they thinking? A zombie pirate? It'll never work! He's got a peg leg, a hook hand, and a fancy blue coat with a big red sash. Befitting a member of the undead, his coat is tattered around the edges and has several holes on his shoulder and elbow, allowing his green skin to show through. His pirate hate has a feather sticking out the back, and a stylized skull painted on the front - in the game, the skull is accessorized with an actual eyepatch that's been stretched around the hat, but here, it's just painted on (despite the fact that the patch itself is a raised element on the sculpt).

Instead of gaping mindlessly like the rest of the zombies do, Captain Deadbeard betrays a hint of intelligence with his expression. His mouth is closed tightly in a big frown, and his squinty eyes make him look like he's planning something. Or he's got the damaged vision of someone constantly exposed to unshaded sunlight. His mustache hooks upward into sharp points, and his ragged beard pokes forward like a hairy shelf.

The articulation is sparse, with only a balljointed head, swivel shoulders, and swivel right wrist. He has no waist, despite being posed twisting to the side, and you can't turn his silver hook to point other directions. In this low-priced Toys Я Us release, his only accessory is his gun. Captain Deadbeard is the zombie team's first sniper, making him a counterpart to the Cactus; in the game, his close-range weapon is known as the Scurvy Scattershot, but he can pull the barrel out like a telescope to become the Spyglass Shot; that would have been a neat play feature for this toy to have, but it doesn't. Since the gun is so long, the set includes a clear plastic stand to help support it. Mine was assembled incorrectly, but boiling it to remove and reposition the barrel means I can now fake its compacted form!

Okay, enough with the zombie pirates, it's time for what kids really love: history lessons and convoluted linguistics!

Kernel Corn was stationed overseas for the events of the first Garden Warfare. Hearing about the conflict at home, he returned to a Suburbia transformed. Now he's ready to lead the Plants to victory, and tacos, but mostly victory.

Around the year 1500, a series of conflicts known as "the Italian Wars" took place among the major powers of Western Europe (if you played the Assassin's Creed Ezio trilogy, you may remember a bit of them showing up there). During this period of unintentional cultural exchange, the French language picked up a lot of Italian terms, including colonella, the leader of a column of soldiers; the French had already re-formed this new word to the more pronouncable coronel by the time English adapted it in the 1540s as "coronell." In the 1580s, educated writers who knew the word's origins (via Italian military manuals) insisted on reverting the r to an l, and two pronunciations vied for supremacy until the 18th century, when the original "r" won out. And that's why "colonel" is pronounced exactly like "kernel."

Kernel Corn is one of the new characters introduced for GW2, though he plays a lot like the Foot Soldier, just with more firepower. He is, of course, an ambulatory corn stalk, though at only 4¼" tall, he's not nearly as big as you might expect - the real thing can easily be 10' tall! You get the feeling the original plan was to make him bigger, because sculptor Oluf W. Hartvigson has him bent forward to look down, as though he were towering over his enemies. Of course, one of Kernal Corn's abilities, the Husk Hop, sees him launch himself into the air by firing downward (rocket jumping, basically), so maybe that's what this is meant to suggest? [No, when he does that, he also flips upside down, so the toy would still be looking up --ed.] If he had any articulation other than a swivel neck, maybe you could work around that issue, but no such luck.

Before it became domesticated, wild corn produced a single cob that measured only about an inch long. Today's variety produces multiple cobs that can be nearly a foot long, which is why Kernal Corn can have one big ear for his head, two smaller ones for hands/guns, and a second pair sprouting from his waist. The kernels are yellow with a few paler ones scattered about, and his leaves are green with darker sripes and spots. There's some kind of... thing... growing on the back of his head. It's tan and spiky and doesn't really make any sense.

As with most of Diamond Select's output, the versions of the toys available at TRU are definitely cheaper, but at the cost of accessories. If you buy the specialty market version of this set, you'll get an extra accessory for each of the figures: Captain Deadbeard will have his bomb-dropping Parrot Pal, while Kernel Corn will have a splatted pat of butter, representing his Bigger Better Butter airstrike attack, the upgraded version of his Butter Barrage.

The articulation on this set isn't quite as good as it was on the previous PvZ figures, but that doesn't keep them from being fun. Come on: it's a pirate zombie vs. a living corncob man! What's not to like?

-- 08/27/17

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