#2492: R2-D2 – Dagobah

R2-D2 — DAGOBAH

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES (HASBRO)

Can you believe that in the 133 Black Series reviews I’ve written, I haven’t yet looked at R2-D2?  That’s crazy, right?  Well, okay, not really, since I got my Series 1 figure a couple of months before starting the site, and obviously didn’t pick up the subsequent re-release for the 40th line.  They finally opted to actually do a slight variant to the character, so I can totally justify buying another figure, and I have the drive to actually review the mold.  Yay!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

R2-D2 (Dagobah) is another figure from Series 2 of the Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary sub-line of The Black Series line.  He’s the last “new” figure in the assortment, but as I touched on above, new is sort of relative here, since he’s just a repaint of the first R2.  He’s 4 inches tall and has 10 points of articulation.  The movement is a little different on this figure.  He’s got fairly typical joints at the top of the legs and at the “ankles”, as well as an opening door on each side of his front, each with an articulated arm inside.  The head turns as well, but it’s connected to an action feature that drops his third leg down.  It’s surprisingly gimmicky for this line, and makes posing the head a little tricky, since getting it set just right can be a little counter intuitive.  I think leaving the feature out may have ultimately been better, but I suppose it’s not the worst concept.  Otherwise, the sculpt is a pretty impressive representation of R2.  It’s a solid rendition, and pretty sharply detailed.  The main selling point on this release, of course, is the paint, which this time around replicates R2 after he falls into the swamp after landing on Dagobah.  He’s pretty sufficiently grimy and gross.  My only gripe with it is that the third leg doesn’t get fully painted, so it’s slightly jarring when extended.  That said, I don’t believe R2 has the third leg out while on Dagobah, so I guess it’s technically accurate this way.  I think the grime helps to showcase the strengths of the sculpt a little better than the original release’s paint, so I definitely dig it.  The original R2 had quite an accessory assortment, covering attachments from six movies.  This one’s not quite as impressive, getting only the periscope attachment from the first release.  It’s not a huge surprise, given it’s the one we see him use in the movie, and this is supposed to be a specifically Empire-based and all.  You can still remove all of the panels and swap them with the accessories from the prior release as well, but he does end up feeling a touch light given that he still holds the same price tag as the original release.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

As I’ve picked up more versions of the core OT cast in The Black Series, I’ve arrived at the point of having multiple displays with them from each film.  However, I still only had the one R2, and at the going rate for the standard, I certainly wasn’t picking up a second.  Fortunately, this guy came along and solved that problem for me.  He’s a little light on the accessories front, but I like the new paint job for sure.

Thanks to my sponsors at All Time Toys for setting me up with this guy for review.  If you’re looking for Black Series, or other toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay storefront.

#2492: Luke Skywalker – Snowspeeder

LUKE SKYWALKER — SNOWSPEEDER

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES (HASBRO)

“During the Battle of Hoth, Luke Skywalker led the Rebel defense against the Empire’s ground forces, giving the Alliance time to evacuate the planet.”

With no shortage of costume changes in A New Hope, Luke Skywalker kept his impressive wardrobe going for Empire, with not only a new standard get-up and some cold weather gear (because everyone was doing it), but also an upgraded version of his pilot gear from the first movie.  The differences aren’t huge, but they’re certainly more than enough to qualify for another figure, and in fact they have for about 20 years now.  We got Luke’s first pilot gear way back at the beginning of Hasbro’s Black Series line, but now we’re finally getting the tweaked version as well.  Let’s have a look at how that turned out!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Luke Skywalker (Snowspeeder) is the second figure in assortment two of the Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary sub-line of The Black Series.  Like yesterday’s Rebel Soldier, he’s an all-new offering, and also like that figure, he’s already slotted for release in the main line later this year.  Luke is just shy of 6 inches tall and he has 29 points of articulation.  This version of Luke is sporting an all-new sculpt, which is quite nice, because Hasbro certainly had some room to phone things in and try to re-use parts of the X-Wing pilot sculpt.  It wouldn’t be as accurate, nor would it make for as good a figure, so I’m glad they went the way they did.  He also continues the trend of the butterfly shoulders, which is great when it comes to lightsaber posing.  I definitely enjoy this thing becoming a regular feature.  I have one notable issue with this sculpt, and ultimately, it comes down more to personal preference than to anything truly wrong.  Under the figure’s removable helmet, he’s sporting an insulating cap over his head.  This is accurate to the updated uniform, and we see a number of the other snowspeeder pilots wearing them when their helmets are removed.  Luke, however, we only see with all of the head gear either on or off.  So, while this is *technically* accurate to the costume design, the figure sans helmet isn’t actually accurate to anything we see in the movie.  I would have liked to get him without the cap, but I guess I’ll just have to make due swapping his head with the Dagobah Luke once I get my hands on that (actually, I really wouldn’t be opposed to a Dagobah landing Luke without the cap and gloves.  That’d be a cool variant).  As it stands, with the helmet, he looks pitch-perfect, and that’s really the way most people will be displaying him anyway.  Luke’s paint work is all pretty solid.  The base work is all pretty clean, and he’s using the face printing, so that looks pretty good.  The eye on my figure is slightly off-set, but not terribly so.  Luke is packed with his lightsaber.  He doesn’t get the grapple he uses in the scene against the AT-AT, but fear not, it comes with the Snowspeeder.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I definitely dig the Snowspeeder gear and the whole Snowspeeder set-up in general, so I was pretty happy when this guy was shown off, and even happier to hear he was getting an all-new sculpt.  Though he may not look like much new or exciting outwardly, he’s got a lot to offer, and improves on the already pretty solid X-Wing Luke.  Now, can we get a Wedge to match, or is that too soon?

Thanks to my sponsors at All Time Toys for setting me up with this guy for review.  If you’re looking for Black Series, or other toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay storefront.

#2463: Luke Skywalker – Bespin

LUKE SKYWALKER — BESPIN

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES (HASBRO)

“Luke battles Darth Vader on a narrow platform in Cloud City and rejects Vader’s urging to turn to the Dark Side and rule the galaxy with him.”

40 years and some change ago, in this galaxy, right here, the second Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back, hit theaters.  As Hasbro likes to use pretty much every five-year milestone as grounds for celebration, that means that this year we’re getting a bunch of throw-back Empire stuff in toy form.  Things kicked off with the Probe Droid, and, following in A New Hope‘s footsteps, there’s also a vintage-style-carded line of Black Series figures.  The first assortment was mostly re-hash, but I’m taking a look at the most unique of the bunch today with another go at Bespin Luke!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Luke Skywalker (Bespin) is one of the five figures that makes up the first series of the Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary sub-line of Black Series figures.  The other four, Bespin Han, Hoth Leia, Yoda, and the AT-AT Driver are all straight re-cards of prior releases, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that was the case with Luke as well.  He’s a lot of re-use, to be fair, with everything below the neck being re-used from the very first Black Series Bespin Luke.  Like that figure, this one stands just shy of 6 inches tall and he has 29 points of articulation.  Black Series articulation hadn’t really gotten to be what it is now in 2014, when this mold first hit, so he’s admittedly a little bit archaic in terms of movement.  The elbows sit a little low on the arms, the range on the hips is quite restricted, and he’s got the up/down joint on both of his wrists, which is a little odd for posing.  All that said, it’s still a pretty nice looking sculpt, so I can’t totally dis the re-use.  He gets an all-new head, which updates him to the more modern style of separate pieces for the face and hair.  The original Bespin head was probably the weakest of the initial Luke head sculpts in terms of a Hamill likeness, so another go at it isn’t the worst.  This new sculpt is…different?  I hesitate to say better, but I also wouldn’t say worse.  In some ways, it’s a better match, but in others it’s more off, and in particular it seems a bit too large proportionally.  The new head is matched by a new paint scheme, which uses the face printing, thereby making him a little more lifelike.  I definitely like that, but I’m not quite as down for how stripped down the paint on his fatigues has become.  The wash on the original was one of the best parts of the figure, but this one loses a lot of that, and the details on the outfit subsequently become easier to miss.  This figure is packed with the same extras as the last version: a lightsaber and a blaster pistol.  They’re as good here as anywhere else.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

A re-issue of this guy’s been pretty much inevitable, given how hard to find the original had become, as well as the original hitting during one of the weakest periods of the line.  There were definitely improvements to be made, and while this figure makes some of them (namely the better paint on the face/hair), it’s really a trade-off.  This should have been an actual improvement, but it’s instead more or less an equivalent product.  It’s a shame, because I was kind of hoping we might get a more deluxe update on this guy, with extra parts to replicate more of the beating he takes during his Bespin duel.  Perhaps such a release could still happen later.

Luke was purchased from my friends at All Time Toys.  If you’re looking for Black Series, or other toys both old and new, please check out their website and their eBay storefront.

#1492: Darth Vader

DARTH VADER

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.

#1290: Princess Leia Organa

PRINCESS LEIA ORGANA

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES

“Princess Leia Organa was one of the Rebel Alliance’s greatest leaders, fearless on the battlefield and dedicated to ending the tyranny of the Empire.”

May the 4th be with you!  Yes, it’s May 4th again, known to geeks all over the world as Star Wars Day.  This year’s Star Wars Day is extra special, since this year marks to 40th anniversary of the release of the original movie.  I had initially planned to review another vintage figure today, but as luck would have it, I got a newer item that I wanted to slot into the schedule as quickly as possible.  So, without further ado, here’s Princess Leia Organa!

THE FIGURE IN QUESTION

Princess Leia was released as part of the first series of the special 40th Anniversary sub-set of Hasbro’s Star Wars: The Black Series.  All of the figures in the first series are re-releases of prior Black Series figures, but this time on special commemorative cards patterned after the vintage Kenner hardbacks of old.  The packaging is super nifty, and I was almost a little sad to have to open it up to take her out.  Leia is a re-release of the #30 Black Series figure released last year.  Unlike the others in this set, she’s actually got a slight tweak from her predecessor.  The initial head for the #30 figure was deemed unsatisfactory by Hasbro.  However, they were too late in production to completely replace it, so the initial shipments went out with the initial sculpt.  There was talk of a running change to replace the head, but I’m not actually sure if they ever made it out.  This release is making use of the new head from the start.  The figure stands 5 inches tall and has 29 points of articulation.  Like Luke and Obi-Wan before her, Leia makes use of a mix of sculpted and cloth parts.  The head, boots, and underlying body are all sculpted, and the dress and hood are a tailored piece, held in place by a sculpted belt piece.  In terms of the sculpted parts, the general work is pretty solid.  The head is, as noted, the improved piece.  It’s really quite a nice piece of work; easily one of the better Carrie Fisher likeness out there.  It’s leaps and bounds beyond the prior piece, and I personally think its a closer likeness than the Boushh disguise Leia, which was my personal favorite prior to this.  The underlying body sculpt is decent enough; it’s not really meant to be seen, so the proportions are more on the marionette side of things.  I do wish some of the joints offered a little more range, but other than that, it seems fine.  The boots are a pretty decent sculpt, and make for a pretty decent replica of the actual costume pieces.  They aren’t going to to be seen much, but the attention to detail is appreciated.  The cloth pieces on the Black Series figures have never been one of Hasbro’s strong suits.  I was particularly letdown by how the shirt turned out on the ANH Luke figure.  So, I was definitely apprehensive of how the dress would turn out here.  While I think I still would have preferred a sculpted dress, I’m happy to say the cloth dress is better than I was expecting.  It seems to be less ill-fitting than prior pieces, and sits on the figure rather nicely.  It’s not without issue, mind you.  The seams on the sleeves are rather annoying, and the hood is just sort of a mess.  It doesn’t really want to say up or down; I think sewing it in place would have been a better idea.  The belt piece holds the whole thing together nicely, and adds just the right folds.  It also doesn’t seem to ride up as much as Luke’s did, which is a serious plus!  I’ve been a little letdown by some of the Black Series paint as of late, but Leia actually turned out really well.  Her head gets the majority of the work.  It’s all pretty clean, and I was pleasantly surprised by the slight accent work on her face, which adds some extra color and brings some much needed life to the figure.  Here’s hoping that this style of paintwork continues!  Leia is packed with two blasters: the smaller one she carries during her opening scene and the larger Stormtrooper blaster she’s hauling around during the escape from the Deathstar.  I really appreciate the variety.  Of course the fact that she got both guns only further hammers home how annoying it was that Luke didn’t get any of his Stormtrooper gear, since both Han and Leia did.  Oh well.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I never did see the first release of this figure at retail (In fact, the only figure I did see was the Obi-Wan figure that I bought).  So, I was pretty happy to hear about the re-release, since I didn’t want my A New Hope set stuck without a major player.  I ended up finding this figure at the nearby comic book store, Power Comics, while Super Awesome Girlfriend was picking up last week’s comics haul.  I was going to wait to grab her, but Super Awesome Girlfriend insisted on buying her for me, because that’s what she does.  For once, I’m glad I had to wait for a figure, because this release is definitely superior to the prior figure.  The end result is a figure I’m really happy with.  She was definitely a pleasant surprise.  Here’s to more awesome Leia figures in the future!