Review: McFarlane Toys Mortal Kombat Exclusive Figures

It probably goes without saying that when McFarlane Toys ups their game, Spawn will be at the forefront. No employee would dare to anything less than a top-notch job on founder Todd McFarlane’s signature character. Retail, however, is another story. In a much-shrunken toy marketplace since Spawn’s action-figure heyday, licensed products are king. And Spawn? Well, he hasn’t really appeared in any media besides comics for a while. Until recently, when he became a downloadable character in the latest Mortal Kombat game. Given that backdoor, McFarlane took it immediately, and of course MK Spawn is their best figure in ages. But the other Mortal Kombat exclusive figures ain’t bad.

Spawn debuted as a Walmart exclusive, and the company is gradually funneling him out to other outlets. Gold Scorpion and icy Sub-Zero came exclusively to Gamestop. McFarlane sent all three for review — they retail around $20-$25, depending where one finds them. Detail is superb on all three, but beyond that, definite pluses and minuses are apparent.

Still, the best is clearly Spawn. A mainstay in the action figure aisle since the early ’90s, McFarlane’s hell-powered assassin has been made many times. This one, however, represents a long-requested combination of sculpt and poseability. The costume is textured like the live-action movie version, which ruled even though the film itself didn’t. Plus it has the comic-styled pouches on the leg, ludicrous as they are. He lacks the usual monster cape and crazy excessive chains that McFarlane usually draws them with, but it is based on the game model. Barbed chains here just make up the belt, and the cape is hefty without coming close to impersonating wings. (It’s glued on from the middle of his back.)

RELATED: McFarlane Toys to Make Arkham Asylum and White Knight Batman Figures

Coolest of all is that the face sculpt shows the shape of a zombified mouth underneath the symbiote costume. While Spawn typically uses guns, for the sake of Mortal Kombat this one wields a sword with his logo on it. All told, probably the first “realistic” Spawn since the movie figures came out. With definite figure of the year potential.

All three Mortal Kombat exclusive figures sport the same 22 points of articulation. By my count: Ball/socket neck, waist, mid-torso. Butterfly pec joints. Double-hinge knees and elbows. Hinge toes. Disc-ball wrists and ankles. And overly complex hip joints that combine side hinges, back-and-forth-cuts, and upper thigh rotation. A ball and socket joint could likely have accomplished all of that, but the aesthetics would have come out differently.

(Base from classic Spawn X figure not included.)

Recent McFarlane figures have had similar articulation but uglier, with visible ratchets, conspicuous hinges, and a matte finish. Spawn conceals most of these, and his glossy finish looks less cheap. This is the step forward we’ve been waiting for from the company. And unless that perpetually delayed Spawn movie miraculously happens, he might be the last Spawn at mass retail for a while. (McFarlane is planning on Kickstarting some others, but they’ll probably cost more.)

Sub-Zero and Scorpion may have the same articulation, but it’s more obstructed with various hard costume parts. Originally a single simple ninja with a palette swap, the two game characters have grown increasingly more elaborate and individual with each successive gain. The Scorpion variant references one of his newer skins in the latest game, while Sub-Zero looks made of ice. In some pictures, his coloring also makes him look a little like a Disneyland Haunted Mansion ghost.

The figures are held in place by plastic “shirt tag” ties. Weapons are just tightly gripped by plastic and tape, but in some cases too tight. Scorpion’s scabbards are hard, brittle plastic, and a peg snapped off one of them just in the process of trying to pop it out of the plastic. Fortunately, the lost peg didn’t prove essential to clipping it to his belt, but be very careful. Consider using scissors to cut through the plastic first.

The butterfly pecs feel extremely limited on these guys, but necks more so, constricted by ninja hoods. Knee joints are stiff and clicky, which allows for holding poses but less playability. The swords on Scorpion’s thigh feel potentially breakable, so don’t get too rough there. His “Get over here!” spear, on the other hand…completely flexible.

Sub-Zero has two axes with holes in the heads that look ready to be holstered somewhere, though I cannot find where. He also includes a frozen fatality skull with spine fragment and loose eyeball. Might have made more sense to keep this bone colored, but fine. The white dry-brush finish over clear blue plastic really lets the sculpt details pop, and gives what was an overly busy figure a more intimidating presence.

Many companies have held Mortal Kombat toy rights over the years, from the minors to the majors. McFarlane’s may be the most detailed of the bunch. Though as Spawn’s superiority over his more elaborate cohorts proves, less can sometimes be more. McFarlane figures based on the very first game’s simpler costumes, with added texture and shading, would be quite something to see. Nevertheless, most collectors buying these aren’t looking to play hard, but to display, and on that score, all three deliver. A small disc display base comes packed with each.

Check out the gallery below for many more looks at these Kombatants in action.