#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!