STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES
“Once a heroic Jedi Knight, Darth Vader was seduced by the dark side of the Force, became a Sith Lord, and led the Empire’s eradication of the Jedi Order. He remained in service of the Emperor for decades, enforcing his Master’s will and seeking to crush the fledgling Rebel Alliance.”
When Star Wars: The Black Series first launched, Hasbro deliberately spaced out the heavy hitters, over the first year or so of the line. Perhaps most noticeably affected by this was franchise icon Darth Vader, who didn’t officially join the line until five series in, well into its second year. Hasbro presumably wanted to wait until they had the rhythms of the line down before tackling one of the most recognizable villains of all time. Unfortunately, The Black Series had something of a downward curve of quality in its first couple of years, and poor Vader was left with a passable, but far from perfect figure. Nevertheless, he’s Darth Vader, so the figure was one of the line’s strongest sellers, providing a scarce, expensive, and ultimately very disappointing experience for most collectors. Fortunately, Hasbro took advantage of Vader’s re-appearance in Rogue One, as well as the original film’s 40th anniversary, to give fans another shot at the dark lord.
THE FIGURE ITSELF
This new Vader figure was available two ways. The first was as part of the 40th Anniversary Legacy Pack, released early this summer, which included Vader carded in the same faux-vintage fashion as the rest of the 40th Anniversary Collection, packed alongside a display stand mimicking the materials included in the original Kenner Early Bird pack. He was then re-released as figure 43 in the main Black Series line, as part of the first The Last Jedi-themed assortment. There are some minor differences between the two, but they’re functionally the same. This Vader differentiates himself from the last Black Series Vader by taking his basis from the A New Hope Vader design. I like this, because it’s functionally the same design, but it means that the fans who have the old Vader still have a reason to own both. The figure stands about 6 1/2 inches tall (the same as the old one) and he has 26 points of articulation (also the same). He too uses a mixed media approach to the design, with plastic for the overall body, and then a cloth cape and robes. This is dangerous territory, as bad cloth parts have been the downfall of more than one Black Series figure. In this case, it seems to have worked out alright, though. The pieces could still be a little tighter, but he’s not swimming in an XXL T-Shirt like the last figure. The all-new sculpt fixes a few of the problems of the prior, most notably, the shaping of the helmet. Since he never took off his helmet in ANH, this helmet’s a solid, non-removable piece, which makes for a more precise and accurate take on Vader’s distinctive mask. I don’t know that I like this piece quite as much as the smaller Rogue One figure, but it’s certainly a marked improvement on the original figure. His paintwork is generally pretty decent. It’s nothing terribly complex, but there’s some nice, subtle variations in the various finishes which offer some nice depth. Regardless of which release of this Vader you get, they both include his usual lightsaber, which appears to be the same piece that was included with the last figure.
THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION
When this figure’s digital sculpt was first shown off, I was pretty pumped. I was more than a little let-down by the old one, and a replacement was high on my list of wants. When he finally hit stores, I was focussed on other things, and just had a hard time justifying his higher price-point, no matter how cool that stand may be. Ultimately, I ended up getting him because I found one at 2nd Avenue for $3. I can’t say for sure which release I got, but I’m happy I finally got one. With all that said, in digging out the old figure for the comparison shots, I realized I was perhaps a little harsh on that one, and he isn’t as bad as I’d remembered. Now I really don’t know which one I prefer.