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By Thomas Wheeler

You know, some action figure lines you expect to see special limited editions, collectibles, "chase" figures from. It's no great surprise when Marvel Legends offers some sort of variant -- an angrier-faced Hydra Soldier, the black-costumed, red-headed Spider-Woman, whatever. It's no surprise when Star Wars comes out with limited editions and store exclusives. These are toy lines that appeal to adults as much as to kids, and the toy companies, while they have to conduct most of their business for the younger set, realize that increasingly there are adults that are interested in their products, and such special editions, they hope, will keep their interest up.

Pretty much the absolute last action figure line I EVER expected to see limited edition "chase" figures from was -- Power Rangers!?

Don't get me wrong. I like the Rangers, or at least their toys. Bandai does good work. And one certainly cannot deny the massive success that the Power Rangers have enjoyed now for over a decade and a half in the United States, and for far longer than that in their origin country of Japan. Power Rangers are a legitimate pop-culture phenomenon.

But generally speaking, when you hear toy collectors discussing what's new and what they're looking for, Power Rangers doesn't enter the conversation. They'll talk Star Wars, they'll talk Transformers, they'll talk Super-Heroes, they'll talk G.I. Joe -- try to mention Power Rangers in that crowd and you're likely to get laughed out of the room.

This is no doubt due to the television shows. "Campy", in most respects, would be polite. Clearly aimed at the younger crowd, the shows over the years have tended to be over the top in both acting and action. What the heck, it's a formula that's worked, even if the shows are generally hard to watch for anyone used to more sophisticated fare -- like Star Trek and Star Wars. But you can't argue the success, and the producers have been understandably reluctant to mess with it, and have little reason to do so.

So you can imagine my surprise when I learned that Power Rangers was going to be doing limited edition "chase" figures, which would be randomly and obviously sparsely packed in assortments of their current Power Rangers Jungle Fury line. I mean -- why?

I thought about that for a while. Power Rangers is entering its 16th year. People who were little kids when it started out, are now in their early to mid 20's. Starting lives of their own. And maybe just a little nostalgic for the things they grew up on. It could certainly be argued that this has helped the longevity of other concepts. No young child surveying the racks of toys of Transformers, or G.I. Joe, or Star Wars, has any memory of the first incarnations of these toys. But their parents do. And the same can now be said of Power Rangers. It's been around long enough, and the first two "chase" figures in this series are from the earliest days of the Power Rangers.

They are the Mighty Morphin Green Ranger, and Lord Zedd. This review will take a look at Lord Zedd.

The original villain for the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was a female named Rita Repulsa. As if the name weren't odd enough, what we had here was a woman who sounded like the Wicked Witch of the West crossed with Witchiepoo from H.R. Pufnstuf.

Somewhere early in the Power Rangers stories, it was decided to introduce a new villain. The creation of Lord Zedd resulted in the first character created specifically for the American audience, with no ties whatsoever to the Japanese Super Sentai series upon which Power Rangers is based.

Lord Zedd's initial appearances in Power Rangers were so frightening that some parents complained that the character was "too evil", and producers toned him down a bit. This still didn't allow for much leeway given Lord Zedd's bizarre appearance. Picture, if you will, a humanoid male completely flayed of skin, appearing to have an exposed musculature and brain, and seemingly held together by a silver exo-skeletal framework and blue piping. His helmet/faceplate conceals whatever face he night have, showing only a red visor and a gridwork around his mouth that looks like the front end of an old-fashioned locomotive.

If I looked like this, I'd probably be evil, too. This is not a comfortable-looking person. He looks like some sort of hideous medical experiment gone wrong.

Zedd is the all powerful "Emperor of Evil" and "sworn enemy of all that is good and decent". He arrived on Earth, leaving his conquest of other systems, to punish Rita Repulsa, disgusted with her failure in not defeating the Power Rangers. Stripping Rita of her powers, he shrunk her and imprisoned her within a "Space Dumpster," hurling her into the depth of space. He then mutated a piranha into the monstrous Pirantishead, who assumed command of the Tyrannosaurus and Dragonzord after freezing the other four Zords. The Rangers barely survived the attack, but managed to regain control of their Zords. Furious, Lord Zedd opened a crevasse in the ground which swallowed all the Zords except for Dragonzord, which retreated into the sea. The Rangers would eventually gain the Thunderzords and defeat Zedd in their first battle against each other.

Over time, Lord Zedd discovered that the Rangers were not the "mere infants" he'd initially thought, and that just like Rita he couldn't defeat them. Soon it came time for Zedd's Centennial Recharge to fully restore his evil energies. It was during this slumber that Rita Repulsa returned to the Palace, plotting revenge. She poured a love potion into the Centennial Recharge machine, and when Zedd awoke, he instantly fell in love with Rita and proposed. While Zedd and Rita became far less serious and lighter figures after their marriage, they were still formidable opponents, and the Rangers were now struggling to defeat both their foes combined. Zedd and Rita used multiple attempts involving clones of the Rangers and time-travel. Also, following this, monsters were now made to grow by Rita and Zedd crossing their staffs and combining energies.

Zedd would continue to pop up, or at least be mentioned, in subsequent Power Rangers series, including Zeo, Turbo, and Power Rangers in Space, where he and Rita would finally be "cured" of their evil. An energy wave produced by Zordon transformed Zedd into a normal, human-looking person, and he and Rita Repulsa retired from their evil ways.

It's worth noting that Zedd has a son named Thrax, who turned up to pester the Operation Overdrive Rangers. The Power Rangers Super Legends video game (more on that in a bit) postulates that Zedd became an archaeologist, and when he discovered a relic known as the time crystal, he was unable to resist the temptation of looking back to whom he once was, the images triggered a reaction from within and corrupted him, reverting Zedd back to his old monstrous appearance and ways, and leading him to become the main villain of the game. Precisely how "canon" the game is remains open to interpretation, I'm sure.

Although I don't normally discuss the packaging of action figures, in this case, it is appropriate. The packaging for the Lord Zedd -- as well as the Green Ranger -- is significantly different than for the Jungle Fury Rangers. Which is a polite way of saying it sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb. Small wonder that these special collectible figures have been hard to locate. Unlike other lines, such as Marvel Legends, which makes no real packaging distinction between its "standard" and "chase" figures in any given assortment, Power Rangers makes a whopping one.

The typical packaging for a current Jungle Fury Power Ranger figure is a reddish orange card with black stripes and rather jagged edges to it. The card for the collectible figures is black tapering into green, with more straight edges. The dimensions are roughly the same -- they'd have to be to put them in the same case lots -- but they're vastly different in appearance. They even have the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers logo on them, followed by the words "Collectible Figures".

Interestingly, the specific character notation on the package bubble starts out with the words "Super Legends" -- in this case, "Super Legends Lord Zedd". While an interesting and, one could say, complimentary term, it also is an indirect reference to a video game released last year, commemorating the 15th Anniversary of the Power Rangers. Called "Power Rangers Super Legends", the video game was notable for basically throwing as many Power Rangers from as many concepts as possible into the mix. The game was available for the PS2, PC, and Nintendo DS.

The storyline -- at least for the PS2 and PC, involved the return of Lord Zedd, who had in mind a plan to wipe out every Power Ranger that ever existed. A future Omega Ranger gathered Power Rangers from all time and space to stop him. There are no less than sixteen playable characters in the game, representing Mighty Morphin, Time Force, Wild Force, Ninja Storm, Lost Galaxy, SPD, and Operation Overdrive. While there's no reason to assume a direct connection between the figures and the video game, one can hardly blame Bandai for even an indirect plug.

As to the figure -- well, almost anything would be an improvement over the original. The one glaring problem with the earliest years of Power Rangers figures, especially Mighty Morphin, is that while the Rangers figures were generally well-articulated enough that they could breakdance, a level of articulation which, while relatively common now, was pretty unusual in the early 90's, the villain figures were generally barely poseable.

Part of this was due to the fact, I'm sure, that the Rangers all shared a common mold -- even the females. You could get five, six, even seven different characters out of the same basic set of molds, just swapping out the heads as needed, and the color of plastic injected into the molds. The bad guys -- well, Lord Zedd didn't really have any counterparts. Thank goodness. One walking meat rack was plenty. But for whatever reason, this also resulted in Ranger villains that were little more than statues.

This has been increasingly adjusted in recent years. The bad guys, although often rather limited in number, tend to be almost as well articulated as the Rangers in any given year. And now, finally, Lord Zedd can take advantage of this.

The figure's likeness is excellent. Whether this is a good thing I suppose depends on how strong your stomach is. The figure is molded in an appropriate shade of -- well, let's call it anatomical-study red. His flayed musculature and exposed brain are superbly detailed, as is his framework armor.

Then, of course, we have the articulation! It's excellent. Although not quite up to Ranger levels -- typical for a villain -- this is also by no means a statue. Lord Zedd is poseable at the head, arms (outward as well as back and forth movement) elbows, legs (also outward as well as back and forth), and knees.

I'd like to discuss the paint detailing. It's excellent -- as far as it goes. And in the case of Lord Zedd, here we have a bit of a problem. Although the front of the figure showcases his skeletal-like armor in a very nice shade of metallic silver, and the blue piping is properly painted, Bandai's unfortunate habit of cutting corners by not always painting the backs of their Ranger figures as entirely as they should comes into play here, and not to good effect.

Look, I understand cost-saving measures. I may not always agree with them, but I understand them. And certainly if one collects Power Rangers, one almost gets used to seeing a few sculpted areas on the back of any given figure that one can pretty much tell should've been painted and just weren't. If you have sufficient talent and tools, perhaps you can deal with it on your own. Or you can just leave it alone and learn to live with it.

HOWEVER -- when you've got a character like Lord Zedd, who's essentially a walking skinless anatomy study, and the only "clothes" he's wearing amount to this silver skeletal armor, and you don't bother to paint the -- backside -- of the figure, the inevitable reaction after the initial surprise is -- Put some pants on, willya!?

Now, in fairness, the armor is there. It's very apparently sculpted into the design. We're not going to be playing "Moon Over Miami" with Lord Zedd here. But unpainted, it's just a little hard to tell, and given the distinct color difference between Zedd's body and his armor sections, it's a little unnerving.

If you get Lord Zedd, and have any artistic skill with a paintbrush whatsoever, get a jar of this paint. Trust me -- you'll want it...

Lord Zedd comes with his staff, of course, a length of silver-grey plastic with a huge "Z" at the top. His faceplate also has a small pole on it with a "Z" at the top. Think this guy is a little identity- obsessed, maybe?

I honestly have no idea what the production run or availability of Lord Zedd -- or the Green Ranger -- might be. They've been turning up on eBay and garnering fair prices. I've heard they were limited to 20,000 apiece -- which is pretty sparse for a line like Power Rangers -- but that number is completely unconfirmed. I know I haven't seen them all that much.

So what's my final word here? However unusual I may find it that Bandai is doing collectible "chase" figures for Power Rangers, there's no question that this is an impressive and cool figure, that will be a fun reminder of the over the top adventure of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers for anyone who was a fan of that show when it first aired, and who is now old enough to have a bit of nostalgic interest in it.

The figure, as I said at the start, is well-made, well-detailed, and a really nice rendition of the character for modern times. And he's certainly better articulated than the original (not that this was a difficult achievement, but it's still nice to have a Lord Zedd that can actually move!). Assuming you can find one, the LORD ZEDD figure from the new Collectible Series definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!