When I last reviewed a NECA Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles two-pack it was the Splinter vs Baxter Stockman set and I referred to it as potentially the last essential set for some. The key word there being “some” as I am not “some” and didn’t consider myself “some” when I wrote that, for there are more essential characters from the venerable cartoon as far as I am concerned. And the list of those remaining starts with the Rat King!
These two come packaged in the same window box we’re used to at this point. We’ve got character likenesses on the front which aren’t from the show, but are probably from the licensing art that Viacom has for the show. Rat King’s likeness looks pretty good though, and Vernon looks fine though it draws attention to the fact that he’s a cowardly sort, but his figure doesn’t depict that. NECA opted for something else which I think most will enjoy more, though. The rear features a cross-sell which just displays previously released figures so if you were hoping for a tease of what’s next you’ll be mistaken. And not to get ahead of myself, but I actually don’t know what’s next. It could be the deluxe Muckman, Mondo Gecko and Kerma, or our first punk frog two-pack. Time will tell.
Rat King was cool, to put it simply. Some weird dude living in the sewer with a bunch of rats who has a unique look and speaks with this lethal sounding whisper. That patchwork costume, the double-wrapped face, he was creepy which made him a lot of fun on that old show because I was never creeped out by Shredder, Krang, or really any other villain. Most of that show was full of comic relief types, but Rat King had a different aura about him. He was a bit mysterious and his motives less defined than someone like Shredder. He wasn’t in a ton of episodes, but certainly enough to be memorable.
And then we have Vernon. Oh, Vernon, the character you love to hate. Or maybe just hate – I don’t know. He was April’s co-worker and was sometimes behind the camera for on location shooting, but I feel like mostly he was just hanging around the Channel 6 headquarters acting like a dick. He was always telling April she was doing something wrong or going about something in the wrong way. At times he was portrayed like a rival, but mostly he was just a dick, and a cowardly one at that. Because he’s not a real villain or anyone that gets into fights on the regular, some may question the need for a Vernon. For me, he was a character that had a presence on the show, and he was in far more episodes than your garden variety villain. He is essential, for a different reason than someone like Rat King, but essential nonetheless. As is Irma, whom I suspect is not too far off.
Now Rat King vs Vernon? That does seem like a bizarre way to sell a two-pack of action figures on the surface. Mostly though, ignore the presence of the word “versus” and it starts to make sense and certainly the extra accessories for Vernon bring that home. There was an episode of the cartoon where both Irma and Vernon were exposed to mutagen via Rat King which caused the two to mutate. Vernon, a character who really only needs a camera and maybe some extra hands, in his mutated rat form is pretty interesting and since it was only his head and forearms that mutated, it was also really easy to work into this two pack.
Vernon comes in right around the 6″ mark, actually a little over, and is featured in his classic attire of pink shirt, blue tie, and blue jeans. There’s even that little case on his belt which has an unknown purpose. Today, it makes me think of a cell phone case, but no cell phone in 1988 is going to fit in there. He sports a happy, yet cocky, expression that conveys his dickishness quite well. He comes packaged with gripping hands, but he also comes with these open, expressive, hands and a pointing, right, hand. His main accessory is a big ole Channel 6 camcorder with a big display on the rear. It’s much larger than the handheld that came with April as Vernon’s is the shoulder mounted style. The handle is articulated and can fold up so it looks appropriate when Vernon carries it by the top handle when he’s not shooting. You can kind of finagle it onto his shoulder too with his eye near enough the viewfinder and overall it’s a nice accessory.
The best accessories though are definitely those were-rat pieces. Vernon’s arms detach at the forearm where they’re held on by pegs. His rolled up sleeves are a separate piece of plastic that fit over those pegs and can slide off if you’re not paying attention when prying the arms off, so be careful. Otherwise, they come off easy enough and the were-rat forearms pop right on with minimal fuss. Vernon’s head detaches at the base of the neck which is a little trickier to get off, but not as difficult as I was expecting. Be sure to grab the neck and not the head or else you might just pop the head off by mistake. I’m pretty sure it’s on a ball-peg, so you’re not likely to damage it or anything, but once the head pops off once it may pop off again with less effort which will only make it harder to get the neck off. Getting the rat head on is tougher and you should probably just heat it up before even trying. Once on though it looks great, and Vernon gains some articulation at the jaw too. It’s so fun that I’m torn on how I want to display this guy. I have a little bit more room where my villains are so he’s going there for now, but I see myself swapping back to regular Vernon and pairing him with April down the road.
Articulation wise, Vernon is pretty familiar. He’s very much similar to April, even though I think he’s mostly all new parts. If he shares any parts with another figure in this line, it’s not obvious. His head is on a ball peg and so is the base of his neck so he’s got great range in that area. The shoulders are ball-hinges and he has the same double-jointed elbows as April which utilize a second ball joint above the elbow for a swivel. It’s kind of funky, but on figures with rolled-up sleeves like this it works pretty well. He has a swivel in the forearm thanks to the pegged in joint there plus the usual swivel and hinge at the wrist. His wristwatch is glued on, unlike April’s, so you don’t have to worry about it flying off when swapping hands. There’s probably some articulation in the torso, but his shirt is a soft plastic over a body and it steals any articulation that would be found there. And you really don’t want to mess with the diaphragm anyway since it would put stress on the shirt and possibly cause some cracking. He does have a waist twist and ball-jointed thighs that swivel. He has this rubber, “diaper”, over the crotch for his pants that restricts some of the leg movement, but it’s not too bad considering this is Vernon. He’s still capable of wide stances and such. His knees are double-jointed and you’ve got hinges and rockers at the ankles. Pretty typical, but technically a little more than we’re used to thanks to the forearm swivel. There’s certainly enough and I think he’s capable of plenty of expressive poses, which are aided by the extra parts.
All right, let’s talk Rat King! I’m pretty impressed by Vernon, more so than I would have ever expected I would be for a Vernon action figure, but my focus is on Rat King. And he looks fantastic. This is the cartoon version of Rat King that I’ve wanted since I was a kid. I never had the Playmates Rat King, even though I wanted him, and I think that has made my desire to have this one all the more enhanced. He looks great though as NECA really nailed the likeness. He’s got this cocky grin with wild eyes and the patchwork nature of his shirt and pants just looks terrific. Again, this guy is mostly new parts because all of the stitching is sculpted in and there just aren’t many human males in this line. It’s basically these two guys, Casey Jones, and Shredder. He stands at about six and a half inches, which feels right for this line. Some characters have been either too short or too tall, but Rat King seems like he’s right on the money.
The only area where Rat King could have been better is in regards to the paint. The actual paint job is pretty terrific. NECA also cast the hinges in the proper colors so when the paint flakes on those joints it doesn’t leave behind an eyesore. And it’s actually pretty clean, actually impressively so, considering all of the linework on this guy. It’s really just that diaper piece where things aren’t great. Before I even moved him out of the box I noticed paint rub on the back of his legs and inner thigh. It’s on the back of the figure so that’s obviously better than the front, but I have a feeling paint is going to rub off of that rubber crotch piece pretty easily so go easy on the thigh joints. I’ve also seen some people end up with cracking paint on that piece and when it flakes off it leaves behind a flesh color. Now Rat King basically wears rags so it’s probably not the eyesore it would be with another figure to see skin poking through, but I don’t know why they didn’t cast that piece in green to match the paint better. And it’s going to be an eyesore if you end up with a cracking crotch piece.
We might as well talk articulation since it plays into that issue just discussed. Rat King’s head is hunched forward and on a ball-peg so it has the usual range of motion, but the hunch restricts it a touch. He’s got shoulder-hinges and biceps swivels and the stitching pattern goes all through both pieces so it still looks good in almost any position. He has double elbows and the hands rotate and have a hinge on them. He has a diaphragm cut that gives him some fun motion in the torso, though he has these straps going over his body which are a separate piece that you want to be mindful of. I don’t think he has a waist swivel. It didn’t turn and I don’t want to mess up those straps, so I’m going to assume it’s not there. His thighs are ball-jointed and, like I said, you’ll want to treat them gently. That diaper is going to limit how far his legs can move, even more so than Vernon because he’s thinner than Rat King, but my advice is only move him as far as that diaper wants you to and not beyond. There’s give there, and it will move, but you might not like the result. The knees are double-jointed and you’ve got hinges and rockers at the ankles. His articulation is fine. It could be better, and since they already had to sculpt so much new for this guy I wish they just sculpted a new crotch piece so they didn’t need that soft diaper, but he’s okay.
For a figure with a lot of new sculpting, it’s actually surprising to see the amount of accessories that are included. For starters, Rat King comes with two, open, stylized hands in the box. He has a set of gripping hands he can swap to and a pointing, right, hand. He also has rats! He kind of needs them and he gets his own rather than sharing a rat with Splinter or something. They’re fun too as NECA gave two of them a curling tail so you can place them on the figure without the need to have peg holes. One fits very well on his shoulder, another can go around a bicep or leg and the third can go on his head or in his hand or something. If you place him on a shelf it’s then pretty easy to just place the rats right on him with little frustration. Rat King comes with his hypnotic flute that fits into his left gripping hand pretty well, less so the right one. He’s also got a bandolier that his soda can grenades fit into. He has two red ones and one blue one and it’s easy to slip over his head and the cans pop in and out easily. The cans also fit into his open hands well and look pretty cool. Lastly, he’s got the same gray cannister of mutagen the rock soldiers came with. He doesn’t need this, but I guess it’s good to have more? – EDIT: It’s actually not the same gray canister that came with Traag and Granitor, it just looks like it. This one can actually separate and there’s some pink ooze inside, so that’s pretty cool. And sneaky.
If it’s not obvious, I’m pretty much over the moon with this set. Both figures turned out well and they’re different from each other and from everything that’s come before so it just adds a little more excitement to the mix. They’re fun to pose with different characters. They can be with the Turtles, Splinter, April, or other bad guys. Vernon as a rat is really dynamic for posing opportunities and placement in a display. I really was tempted to buy two, and if Vernon had been packaged with Irma and she had rat parts too then I probably would have. I didn’t want or need two Rat Kings though, plus I don’t want to hog two sets for myself when they’re still hard to get. And that’s the last negative of the set, these are once again Target exclusives. We saw tremendous volume with Krang and the Splinter vs Baxter set because Target ordered direct from NECA to distribute on their own, rather than via NECA’s independent rep relationship. This set is back to that model so as a collector we’re back to stalking the stores when we know the local rep hits and hope for the best. I got lucky that someone on Twitter who follows me alerted me that the store near my house was just stocked late last Friday and I hauled ass to get there and get a set. If you don’t want to go to a store in the midst of a pandemic, I do not blame you one bit. An online drop at target.com is expected sometime this week which is why I’ve fast-tracked this review so I can get you that information! There is a placeholder page on Target’s website right now (search for NECA Rat King and make sure you select “include out of stock” in the filter to bring it up) and if you have the app you should go to it and turn on notifications. Sometimes those notifications work perfectly, sometimes they don’t, but it’s better than being left in the dark. Good luck out there and don’t feed the scalpers!