#1871: Rebel Fleet Trooper

REBEL FLEET TROOPER

STAR WARS: POWER OF THE FORCE II (KENNER)

“Aboard the Rebel Blockade Runner, Rebel freedom fighters begin their defense against an Imperial invasion.”

The Rebel Fleet Troopers are our first glimpse at the heroes of Star Wars.  They are also our first glimpse at what happens to anyone who’s not a main character, as they are quickly dispatched in an uncharacteristic bit of spot-on marksmanship from the Stormtroopers.  The greatest indignity of all, however, would come from Kenner, who didn’t grace those poor Fleet Troopers with a single figure during the run of the original Star Wars line.  Fortunately, Power of the Force II would sort of make up for that, though with perhaps one of the line’s most infamous figures.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

The Rebel Fleet Trooper was released as part of Power of The Force II‘s 1997 line-up, alongside the Hoth-themed variant of the Rebel Trooper, amongst others.  He is, of course, based on the dome-helmeted Troopers from A New Hope‘s opening sequence, though perhaps a bit more loosely based than some of this line’s offerings.  The Trooper was one of the line’s biggest offerings (in more than one way), clocking in at over 4 inches tall.  And he’s not just tall, he’s built.  And when I say “built” I mean like a truck.  If the actual Fleet Troopers in the movie had been anywhere near as big as this guy, maybe they wouldn’t have gone down so quickly.  This guy’s sculpt definitely represents Power of the Force at the peak of its ’90s macho man insanity.  It’s actually a little surprising to see when compared to the rest of the figures from this same year, who had started dialing these things down.  At this point, it’s almost caricature.  Like someone, somewhere along the line was trying to win a bet or something, and seeing how far they could get with this.  Whatever the case may be, he’s perhaps the goofiest sculpt in the line, and that’s saying something.  As far as paint goes, the Fleet Trooper is fairly standard for the line.  Somewhat surprisingly, it’s actually a somewhat subdued color scheme compared to the movie, but the application’s clean and he’s close enough to work.  The Fleet Trooper is packed with two blasters: the standard-issue Rebel blaster, as well as a re-pack of Han’s, because this guy wanted to feel more like a main character.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

The Fleet Trooper was amongst the figures my cousin Patrick and I had shared custody of at my grandparents’ house back in the day.  That one got lost along the way, so this one’s a replacement I picked up during one of Lost in Time’s sidewalk sales at the beginning of the summer.  He is super, super goofy, and a prime example of PotF2‘s “worst”, but man oh man do I love this guy.

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#1857: ASP-7

ASP-7

STAR WARS: POWER OF THE FORCE II (KENNER)

“From the newly-created footage in Star Wars: A New Hope – Special Edition.”

Those words are proudly splashed across the front of this figure’s packaging.  Remember when that actually would have excited people?  Remember before Lucas kept changing and changing them, and just generally ruining everything?  Pepperidge Farm remembers.  And me; I also remember, which I guess is more relevant for this site, isn’t it?

The ASP-7 was one of the many additional CGI characters added to the original trilogy during Lucas’ first CG-laden Special Edition fever dream, and is, admittedly, one of the less offensive additions.  He just hangs in the background and carry’s some metal bars around.  At least he doesn’t dance in front of the camera…or shoot first…or sound like Temuera Morrison.  Point is, things could have been way worse for old ASPy here.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

The ASP-7 was released in the 1997 assortment of Power of the Force II, right on top of that whole “Special Edition” thing.  The figure stands 3 3/4 inches tall and he has…articulation.  An exact count’s a little tricky, because it’s hard to tell what’s actually a proper joint, and what’s an un-articulated joining of the plastic.  The general gist is that this guy’s just not terribly mobile.  His sculpt was an all-new offering, and has remained unique to him.  It is simultaneously a product of its time and completely different than the rest of the line it hails from.  He’s honestly far more screen-accurate than a good chunk of the Power of the Force figures, but at the same time, that’s not saying a lot.  As a mid-90s CG model, the ASP-7’s movie counterpart was pretty devoid of detailing, and was quite rudimentary.  This figure follows suit, so while he may not have the wonky proportions of a lot of his compatriots, he also lacks a lot of the fun detail work that really allows most of the line to shine two decades later.  The paintwork on the ASP-7 is decent enough.  Like the sculpt, it matches very closely to the on-screen appearance.  Those rather generic filler gradients of the animation model come through perfectly clear here.  On the plus side, this is undoubtedly an area where it looks better on the toy than in the movie, because this styling of paintwork is fairly common place, especially in toys of this era, so he ends up looking alright.  He’s packed with a single accessory: a pile of bars, just like the ones he’s seen carrying in the movie.  I don’t think you can come up with a better accessory than that, can you?

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

The ASP-7 is the penultimate figure in the selection of them I grabbed over the summer during one of Lost in Time’s sidewalk sales.  He was grabbed first and foremost because he was a figure I didn’t already have, but also because, hey, kinda nifty robot, right?  I know the actual review segment here was kind of rough on him.  He’s not the finest offering this line had, not by a long shot.  But, as with so many of the figures in this line, I still can’t help but kind of love this little guy, warts and all.

#1829: Grand Moff Tarkin

GRAND MOFF TARKIN

STAR WARS: POWER OF THE FORCE II (KENNER)

“As one of Emperor Palpatine’s most loyal administrators, Grand Moff Tarkin devised and administered the construction of the first Death Star battle station. The governor ruled a large section of the Outer Rim Territories, including Tatooine, with an iron fist of terror and brutality.”

Though a prominent character in the franchise’s first installment, as an old guy in a grey military uniform, Wilhuff Tarkin hasn’t been the most toyetic character from the Star Wars movies.  As a matter of fact, Tarkin was the only major character to be completely absent from the vintage line.  His first action figure would come over a decade later.  I’ll be taking a look at that figure.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Grand Moff Tarkin was released in 1997 as part of Power of the Force II’s second year.  The figure stands 3 3/4 inches tall and he has the usual 6 points of articulation.  Tarkin sported a brand-new sculpt, which would remain unique to him (Captain Piett would make use of a similar selection of pieces, but they were just different enough to be…different).  It’s a decent sculpt, and an early break from the extreme proportions of the line.  I mean, sure, he’s still got a bit more bulk than Peter Cushing ever did, but compared to some of the others in the line, he was downright normal looking.  His face even sports a halfway-decent likeness of Cushing, certainly one of the best human likenesses Power of the Force II produced.  While he lacks some of the sharper detailing that a lot of the aliens from this line got, all of the important details are there, and he certainly still looks respectable.  The paint work on Tarkin is clean and fairly simple.  There’s a little bit of slop on some of the silver parts, but it’s minor.  Tarkin is packed with two different styles of blasters: one small, one mid-sized.  Not bad for a guy who never carries a single blaster in the movie.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I’ve mentioned a few times before in these PotF2 reviews that my cousin Patrick and I sort of had this shared collection of these figures.  As such, there are a number of figures I never personally owned, which I still have some memories of.  He had a Tarkin, which was sadly lost on the beach on one of our family vacations.  That stuck with me for a while, and I never did get around to finding my own.  I got this one during a sidewalk sale at Lost In Time Toys over the summer.  Tarkin’s a decent figure.  Sure, there have been better versions of the character over the years, but for his first go, this one’s pretty darn good.

#1704: Grand Moff Tarkin

GRAND MOFF TARKIN

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES

“An ambitious, ruthless proponent of military power, Wilhuff Tarkin became a favorite of Emperor Palpatine and rose rapidly through the Imperial ranks.”

Before the introduction of Emperor Palpatine in Empire, the original man behind the man that was Darth Vader was Wilhuff Tarkin, Grand Moff of the Empire, and really the central antagonist of A New Hope.  Yes, his name is really Wilhuff.  At least it’s better than Sheev, right?  Tarkin hasn’t always been the most prevalent figure when it comes to action figures, but he was fortunate enough to be one of the recent additions to The Black Series.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Grand Moff Tarkin is figure #63 in the Star Wars: The Black Series line.  He hit alongside the Solo product back in April, and has proved to be the most difficult to find of the set.  The figure stands 6 inches tall and he has 24 points of articulation.  As an Imperial officer, it’s not a huge surprise to find that Tarkin makes use of some of Krenic’s parts, namely the arms and legs.  He gets a unique torso and skirt piece, to denote his slightly differing rank and his lack of a sidearm.  The torso does a good job of capturing Peter Cushing’s more narrow-shouldered build.  He’s also got a new head, of course, which is definitely one of Hasbro’s best offerings from this line.  The likeness of Cushing is spot-on, right down to the slight little sneer he had in all of Tarkin’s scenes.  There are tons of subtle little details, which really help to make this sculpt incredibly lifelike, even more so than a lot of others in this line.  Tarkin makes use of the new face printing technique, just like the rest of his assortment.  Like with the sculpt, I think Tarkin is one of the best iterations of this technique we’ve seen in the line.  Between the sculpt and the paint, there’s a lifelike quality to Tarkin that just about rivals a Hot Toys offering.  The rest of the paint is more basic, but it’s still very clean, which is always a plus.  Tarkin is only packed with one accessory, but boy is it a good one.  He includes the Imperial Interrogation Droid (or, as he’s known to Robot Chicken fans, Dr. Ball, M.D.!).  It’s a pretty sizable piece, and almost counts as a figure in its own right.  It also highlights how lightly packed the Jawa from this same assortment was, but let’s just focus on the awesome that is this figure and his amazing accessory.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Tarkin’s been a high-ranking want from this line for a good while, so I was super pumped when he was shown off last year.  The figure was also my main want when all of the Solo product was hitting, though it took me a little bit to finally track him down.  I ended up getting him at the same time as Lando and the Jawa.  He’s absolutely my favorite figure from this line, and he’s going to be very hard to top going forward.  This is a figure that no Star Wars fan should miss out on!

#1703: Jawa

JAWA

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES

“Jawas comb the deserts of Tatooine in search of discarded scrap and wayward mechanicals. Using their cobbled-together weaponry, they can incapacity droids and drag them to their treaded fortress-homes, immense sand-scarred vehicles known as sandcrawlers.”

Though rather simple in execution (they’re literally just children in brown robes), the Jawas are a distinctive part of the the first Star Wars film.  They’re also pretty plot-relevant, moving R2 and 3PO to Owen Lars’ farm, and thereby getting Luke involved in the whole story.  And then they get barbecued.  What a day.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

The Jawa is figure 61 from Star Wars: The Black Series.  He hit alongside the first assortment of Solo figures, and is a re-pack of the 40th Anniversary Jawa from last year.  That one saw a much more limited release, so seeing it again here is much appreciated.  Unlike most Jawa figures, which come paired with another Jawa or droid, this one returns to the release method of the original vintage figure, being sold all on his lonesome.  The figure stands about 4 inches tall and he has 28 points of articulation.  I’m happy to report that, unlike the earlier Yoda figure, the Jawa was not short-changed on the leg articulation.  Of course, the plastic skirt piece kind of removes most of the mobility on those leg joints, but lets not go down that road.  The Jawa’s sculpt is unique, and definitely very strong.  The robes are all plastic, which I think was the appropriate call after the spotty cloth work on figures like Luke and Leia.  The detail work on said robe is exquisite, with tons of texturing all throughout, to really capture the heavy coarseness of the fabric. The head and hood are done as two separate pieces, which is a smart move.  It allows for the head to be fully detailed, or at least as fully detailed as the completely covered head can be.  The two straps running across the figure’s chest are a separate, but non-removable piece.  I was expecting there to be a buckle somewhere on there, because there usually is on pieces, but no luck.  So, if for whatever reason you were hoping to remove that, it’s going require a little finagling.  There’s an Ion Cannon attached to one of the straps via a somewhat lengthy cord.  It can’t be removed either, but it can be holstered on one of the belts.  The paintwork on the Jawa is decent.  Mostly it’s pretty basic, but I do appreciate the slight weathering on the bottom of the robes.  The Jawa includes a second Ion Cannon, this time not connected to the straps.  For versatility, I guess.  Given the smaller stature of the figure, I would have liked maybe a smaller droid or something to be included, or just more accessories in general, but I think this figure’s being slightly held back by the 40th Ann release having less space for such things in the blister, and Hasbro not wanting to add extras here and thus detract from that figure’s value.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

When the 40th Anniversary figures were hitting last year, I wasn’t in the financial state to be going toy-hunting, so I never found this guy.  When the re-release was announced, I was definitely happy.  I didn’t have luck finding him initially, but ultimately found him on the same Target trip that got me Lando.  The Jawas have long been a favorite of mine, so I’m very pleased to have this figure.

#1607: Han Solo – Cantina

HAN SOLO – CANTINA

STAR WARS: POWER OF THE FORCE II (HASBRO)

“Inside Mos Eisley’s cantina, Han Solo just negotiated a lucrative deal to transport two men to Alderaan – enough to pay off his debt to crimelord Jabba the Hutt. But it’s too late: bounty hunter Greedo has come to collect – though all the Rodian gets is a shot to the chest from Solo’s blaster.”

Towards the end of their run with Power of the Force II Hasbro officially started putting their name on the line, and also used this as sort of an excuse to circle back around and give us new and improved standard versions of the main characters.  After going a whole year with no Han Solo figures (which seems downright crazy if you ask me), they offered up a brand new figure of him in his classic smuggler’s outfit from A New Hope.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Cantina Han Solo was released in the 1999 assortment of Power of the Force II figures.  He was designed specifically to go with a new version of Greedo, and is meant to directly recreate Han from the encounter with Greedo in the Mos Eisley Cantina.  The figure stands 3 3/4 inches tall and he has 10 points of articulation.  He had knee joints!  You can’t begin to imagine how big a deal that was back in ’99.  It was all so that he could sit at a booth at the cantina.  A non-existent booth, but hey, that’s not the point.  Han’s sculpt is one of the finest the POTF2 line had to offer.  His proportions are actually pretty realistic, he’s slightly pre-posed but not extremely so, and he’s even got a pretty decent Harrison Ford likeness.  The detail work on his clothing, the shirt in particular, is quite impressively handled.  I also really like the posturing of his hands; it adds a lot of life and character to the figure.  Han’s paintwork is all pretty standard fare, but it’s still pretty good.  It’s all pretty cleanly applied, and matches up pretty well with the movie.  Han is packed with his usual blaster (which was notably less over-scaled than prior versions).  Also, as a 1999 release, he was part of the whole CommTech venture, so he comes with a CommTech stand.  I never actually got the reader, but it still works well as a somewhat unique looking stand, so there’s that.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I remember getting this guy with some money I’d gotten for my 7th birthday.  My parents took me out to Toys R Us to use the money, and this guy was amongst the figures I bought.  I’m not entirely sure why, but I just liked him for whatever reason.  To this day, he remains perhaps my favorite Han Solo figure in my collection, and definitely one of my favorite Power of the Force II figures.  He holds up quite well!

#1593: Luke Skywalker – Ceremonial Outfit

LUKE SKYWALKER – CEREMONIAL OUTFIT

STAR WARS: POWER OF THE FORCE II (KENNER)

“In the main throne room of a Massassi temple, Luke Skywalker receives an honorary medal for his part in the destruction of the Imperial Death Star.”

There’s a lot of potential Luke Skywalker variants out there.  He got one distinct design for each movie, plus his pilot gear, and at least one other major look for each film.  For A New Hope, he actually has four distinct looks.  My personal favorite is one that doesn’t actually appear for all that long; it’s the snazzy dress outfit he wears during the film’s final scene, set during an award ceremony.  It’s had less figures than other looks, but as a variant of Luke Skywalker, it’s still had its fair share.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Luke Skywalker in his Ceremonial Outfit was released as part of the 1997 assortment of Star Wars: Power of the Force II.  He was the seventh of the eleven Lukes in the line, and the second-to-last unique outfit, prior to the line switching over to variations of Farmboy Luke.  It was actually one of two Ceremonial Lukes released in 1997, the other being part of the Princess Leia Collection.  It was a good year for a look that hadn’t yet seen an action figure release.  The figure stands 3 3/4 inches tall and has 6 points of articulation.  This Luke marked the debut of Kenner’s second POTF2 Luke head sculpt.  As noted in the past, it’s not really much closer than the first attempt at a Hamill likeness, but I do tend to prefer this one.  The rest of the sculpt is unique to this particular figure.  As far as this line goes, it was pretty solid.  Sharp detailing, reasonable proportions, and a fairly neutral stance, all of which add up to an above average figure from this particular line.  The paintwork on Luke is pretty standard stuff, which is to say the colors are a good match for the film and the application is all sharp.  There’s no slop to speak of, and everything stays within its appropriate lines.  Luke was packed with a blaster pistol and his medal from the ceremony, which are both missing from my figure, sadly.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

This was a fairly early Luke in my collection, and is probably one of the Power of the Force figures I purchased closest to his initial release.  I got him from KB Toys, during a trip to the mall with my Grandmother.  He was purchased alongside a whole bunch of others, but the others were all meant to stay at her house, with this guy being the one who would be going home with me.  He’s remained a favorite of mine, and served as my go-to Luke for a good chunk of time.

#1556: Luke Skywalker

LUKE SKYWALKER

STAR WARS MIGHTY MUGGS (HASBRO)

Before Funko created the insane every property imaginable juggernaut that is Pop! Vinyl in 2009, there was Mighty Muggs, another attempt at creating a multi-property pop-culture-driven vinyl figure line.  Launched in 2007, Mighty Muggs were Hasbro’s go at the world of collectible vinyl.  They spanned Marvel, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and even Hasbro’s in-house properties G.I. Joe and Transformers.  With a tagline of “Made from 100% recycled Awesome,” the figures originally debuted on a 6-inch base body, before eventually being scaled down into Mini Muggs in 2011.  They would be scaled down once more, into Micro Muggs, in 2012, before going on hiatus as a whole (apart from an out of the blue SDCC-exclusive ROM in 2014).  In light of Funko’s immense success with Pops, it would appear Hasbro’s giving the brand another try, albeit with a slight…twist…I assure you, that’ll be funnier once you’re done with the review.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Luke is figure 03 in the first six-figure assortment of Star Wars Mighty Muggs.  The assortment offers a mix of old and new trilogy designs, with Luke coming from the old, specifically from A New Hope.  It’s kind of his quintessential look, so it’s a god place to start.  The figure stands about 3 1/2 inches tall, putting him somewhere in-between the scales of the old Mighty Muggs and Mini Muggs.  So, if you have the old ones, you’ll still be starting over.  Perhaps not coincidentally, this sizing means that Luke is almost exactly the same size as his Funko compatriots.  Hasbro clearly knows the market they want to tap into.  Old Mighty/Mini Muggs had three points of articulation, at the neck and shoulders.  These new Muggs lose the neck joint, for reasons I’ll get into in a little bit.  Luke can still move at the shoulders, though, which I’m happy about.  The proportions of the new Mugg body are similar in a lot of ways to the original, but with a definite influence from the figures that have come since.  The main body is a bit squatter, and the head is larger in comparison.  I actually find these changes to be quite aesthetically pleasing.  Another change in this new incarnation is just how unique each figure is.  Old Mighty Muggs would deviate from the base body as little as possible, resulting in a very large number of figures that were sculpturally identical.  If Luke is any indication, that won’t be true this time.  He gets a unique hair piece, as well as a slightly tweaked right arm, holding his trusty lightsaber.  Once again, the changes are things I really don’t mind, and in the case of the hair, it was a direction Hasbro was already starting to experiment with at the end of the original line.  Another change in direction?  An action feature.  Mighty Muggs weren’t entirely without action features before, but they were far from the norm.  This time it’s standard.  Luke has three different facial expressions, made visible by pushing down on his hair.  It’s this feature that robs Luke of his neck movement.  Personally, I don’t mind, but I suppose an argument could be made that a non-mechanical rotation would have preserved the articulation.  Of course, then Hasbro wouldn’t have the gimmick to set them apart from the competition, so maybe that wouldn’t have been so great.  The paint is definitely where this guy really shines, and it mostly comes from those three expressions.  He’s got a standard determined stare, a grin, and an angry screaming one.  I like how they’re all three clearly the same guy, but still very distinctly different and incredibly expressive.  Very definitely the highlight of the figure.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

While I didn’t have a huge collection or anything, I was definitely a fan of Mighty Muggs back in the day (at least in part via Christian, who had a larger collection than I).  I was a bit sad when they went away, and I always preferred them to Pops.  When I heard they were coming back, I was quite excited, and I was even more exited when I found them at my local TRU.  I came very close to buying a whole set of the Star Wars ones, but decided to try the line out with one, and went for Luke who I thought looked the coolest.  I’m very happy with my purchase, and I can definitely see myself grabbing more of these.  Here’s hoping they take off!

#1497: Han Solo – Smuggler

HAN SOLO – SMUGGLER

STAR WARS: 30TH ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION (HASBRO)

“A scoundrel through and through, Han Solo nonetheless adheres to a deep sense of right and wrong. He couldn’t leave his new friends behind to what he felt was certain death. Though some might call his arrival at the Battle of Yavin late, he prefers to say that he was ‘just in time.’”

2017 marked the 40th anniversary of A New Hope’s release, and thus the 40th anniversary of the Star Wars franchise as a whole.  Hasbro had a few commemorative releases, mostly to do with the Black Series, but it was notably smaller than the last big anniversary celebration they ran, back during the 30th Anniversary.  For that one, there were several different assortments running, with coverage of all six of the franchise’s films.  There were some new additions offered, but there were also more than a few variants of the main players.  There were three versions of Han Solo offered, and today I’ll be looking at the first of those three!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Han was released in the second wave of the Star Wars: 30th Anniversary Collection, which was based around the Battle of Yavin from the end of the first movie.  The whole assortment had initially been planned for release in 2006, but ended up pushed back to 2007.  Han was figure 11 out of 60 total figures in the 30th Anniversary Collection, and is based on Han’s fully kitted out look seen both when he uses the gunner turret during the Death Star escape and when he swoops in to save Luke from Vader during the trench run.  The figure stands just shy of 4 inches tall and he has 16 points of articulation.  After the introduction of the Vintage Original Trilogy Collection in 2004, Hasbro was beginning to experiment with more fully articulating the basic figures, and Han followed this trend.  This was partly out of convenience, as this figure was built on the VOTC Han’s base, and therefore inherited a lot of his articulation.  To facilitate the slightly different look of this particular Han design, the figure gets a new head and arms.  The head adds Han’s headset, which connects to his belt at the back.  I find the head has one of the better Ford likeness at this scale (especially for the time) and headsets just make everything cooler, am I right? (Fun Fact: the headsets used by Han and Luke in A New Hope are the same model used by the Nostromo’s crew in Alien and the Colonial Marines in Aliens.)  The new arms remove the hinge/swivel elbows of the VOTC figure for the slightly cheaper to produce angled swivel joints.  They aren’t quite as useful, but they pose well enough if you’re creative with them, and they’re pretty well hidden by the sculpt.  He also has new hands, sporting the gloves Han wears wile piloting the Falcon.  I’ve always liked the gloved look, so I was happy to see it show up here.  Han’s paintwork is pretty decent overall, with very clean application with little bleed over or slop.  His pants are a slightly brighter blue than they really should be, but that’s pretty minor.  The gloves are also usually seen with more of a yellowish hue to them, but I think the differences here can be written off as variations in lighting.  Han was packed with his trusty DL-44 heavy blaster pistol, which he can hold in either hand or stow in his holster.  He also included a 30th Anniversary Collection coin, which I foolishly threw into my bin of unnecessary extras before I got a picture.  Silly Ethan.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I wasn’t really collecting Star Wars figures at the time of the 30th Anniversary Collection, so I didn’t get this guy new.  In fact, my first knowledge of this figure’s existence was seeing him re-packed with the huge 2008 Millennium Falcon release.  I thought he looked pretty cool, but not cool enough to drop $160 for the Falcon (what a fool I was!).  Ultimately, I ended up getting this guy about a month or so ago, during Lost In Time’s grand opening sale.  All the basic Star Wars figures were marked down, and he just looked cool.  He’s a pretty sweet figure, and one of the better Hans I own.  It makes me a little sad that the Black Series figure didn’t include an extra head with the headset.

***SHAMELESS PLUG TIME!***

Hey FiQ-fans, do you enjoy reading my incessant ramblings about Star Wars toys?  If so, you should totally check out A More Civilized Age: Exploring the Star Wars Expanded Universe, which features an essay about the history of Star Wars action figures, written by yours truly!  And if that’s not enough for you, there’s another 18 essays discussing the Expanded Universe, (including one written by my dad Steven H. Wilson) as well as a foreward by Star Wars Novelist Timothy Zahn.  I’m very excited about it, so please check it out here.

#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.