#2561: Speeder Bike

SPEEDER BIKE (w/ REBEL SPEEDER BIKE PILOT)

STAR WARS: POWER OF THE FORCE II (KENNER)

“Whipping through the forests of Endor on a Rebel strike mission against the Death Star shield generator, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia battled Imperial scout troopers atop highly maneuverable speeder bikes. Considered ideal reconnaissance vehicles by the Empire and he Rebel Alliance alike, their maneuverability and acceleration is superior to both landspeeders and airspeeders. This particular speeder bike was designed and built based on production sketches found in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Sketchbook.; its creator was renowned Star Wars artist, Joe Johnston.”

Have you ever been so non-started by something that when it came time to do that thing you actually did an entirely different thing for far longer than you’d like to admit before realizing you were actually doing the wrong thing?  Because I have, and it was right here, just moments ago, when I was so “meh” on today’s review subject that I actually started up writing a review for *next* Sunday, and even got so far as uploading that review’s photos before realizing my mistake.  I’m sure that makes you guys feel real great about having to read the following review that my subconscious clearly didn’t want to write.  Well, we’re doing it anyway.

THE TOYS THEMSELVES

The Speeder Bike and Rebel Speeder Bike Pilot were released by Kenner in 1998, as one of three vehicle sets that accompanied the Expanded Universe sub-line of their main Power of the Force line.  While the figures were all based on established characters and designs from Star Wars media other than the movies, the vehicles on the other hand were all focused on replicating un-produced concept work from the films.  This item is, as you may have guessed, the original concept for the Speeder Bikes that would appear on the Endor sequences in Return of the Jedi, and, as the bio above notes, are based on Joe Johnson’s sketch.  In toy form, it’s about 5 inches long, and features a spring-loaded feature that swings the outriggers backward or forward.  The sculpt is definitely on the boxy side, which is true to the original sketch overall, but the process of converting the design into plastic form has made it a good deal clunkier.  This only increases its relative clunkiness when compared to its film-based brethren.  It’s not a bad looking sculpt from a technical standpoint, I suppose.  The detailing is relatively sharply rendered, so that’s good.  In addition to the outrigger action feature, there’s also a missile launcher built in, for a more offensive set-up, I guess.

Included with the Speeder Bike is its own unique pilot, the Rebel Speeder Bike Pilot.  That’s a very unique name, I know.  While the Speeder bikes in the final film were an Imperial vehicle, and subsequently had their own specific Imperial pilots, it seems at some point they were supposed to be the Rebels’ proper.  This guy’s design is rather different from any of the Rebels we actually saw in the film, with his aviator’s cap and goggles.  It’s not that far removed from the WWI/WWII film-inspirations that the movies had, and a similar design element would crop up years later when Marvel introduced Doctor Aphra into the universe.  So, it’s not inherently un-Star Wars.  The figure stands just shy of 3 3/4 inches tall and he has 6 points of articulation.  He feels somewhat on the diminutive side for this line, and I’m not entirely sure why.  I guess he’s just like that.  His sculpt is passable, but compared to the original sketch, it definitely feels like some of the charm of the design was lost in translation.  A lot of that coolness factor just feels gone.  As it stands he’s…fine.  That’s about it.  The paint’s kind of the same deal.  He’s rather drab and not particularly eye-catching.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

The Expanded Universe sub-set as a whole excites me.  The vehicles from that set as a whole do not.  They’re just kind of bland and not terribly exciting, and they’re certainly not helped by the lack of the 3D back drops.  I never had much attachment to this release, which is why I never really went to the trouble of tracking it down.  I still don’t really have much attachment.  It’s okay.

Thanks to my sponsors at All Time Toys for setting me up with this set.  They’ve got a decent back stock of Power of the Force, and other cool toys both old and new, so please check out their website and their eBay Store.

#2408: Crowd Control Stormtrooper

CROWD CONTROL STORMTROOPER

STAR WARS: POWER OF THE FORCE II (KENNER)

“Feared throughout the galaxy, Stormtroopers are elite shock troops deployed in support of both ground forces and the Imperial fleet. They are responsible for policing Imperial outposts and territories, accountable for sustaining Imperial control in even the most dangerous sectors. This can be a challenging and often deadly assignment for the most reliable shock troop squadrons. Tough port cities such as Mos Eisley have high populations of outlaws, criminals, smugglers and other anti-Imperial types who create a typically chaotic atmosphere.”

Before making use of the sub-line to get out some larger figures and accessories seen in the film, Kenner’s first approach to the “Deluxe” offshoot of Power of the Force was…well, it was certainly more at home in a ’90s toyline.  The first three offerings (as well as one of the two offerings that followed) in the line were all slight re-workings of previously released heavy hitters, but this time with some big gimmicky gizmo included.  On the positive side, it did give collectors a second chance at a little bit of army building in the form of today’s figure, the Crowd Control Stormtrooper.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

The Crowd Control Stormtrooper was released in 1996, alongside Han Solo w/ Smuggler Flight Pack and Luke Skywalker w/ Desert Sport Skiff.  The figure stands 3 3/4 inches tall and has 6 points of articulation.  The core figure to this set is effectively the same sculpt as the standard Imperial Stormtrooper figure.  Certainly, that’s hardly Kenner’s finest attempt at a Stormtrooper sculpt, but it was the standard one of the time, being only a year old.  It’s still got all the goofy quirks of that particular release, meaning he’s rather muscle bound and also lacks both a neck and the ability to stand for long periods of time unassisted.  The one change this release makes to the sculpt is adding a port to his back so that he can make use of his big gimmicky gizmo.  The other change is a paint change, rather than a sculpt change.  This guy has the same basic paint elements as the regular release, but with a bunch of flecks of dirt all over the body now.  I guess this guy’s been a little worn-in.  Or maybe he’s a really early preview of a Remnant Trooper!  That’d be something!  Whatever the case, he kind of reminds me of cookies and cream ice cream.  The supposed main selling point of this set is not the figure, of course, but rather the Crowd Control pack he includes.  It’s big, and it plugs into is back, and it has some moving parts.  I’m not entirely sure how this monstrosity is meant to aid in crowd control, but this is the Empire we’re talking about here; they tend to go for the crazier, mad-genius-style solutions to things.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Growing up, these deluxe figures always baffled me a little bit.  I wasn’t really alone on that front, I suppose.  Now that I’m an adult, though, and I’ve really gotten into appreciating PotF2 for what it was, they’re kind of key to that appreciation, because what else sells the true ’90s-ness of the early line better than these guys?  This guy also benefits from really being the only one in the first set that makes any sort of internal sense; a Stormtrooper with an extra gimmick really isn’t that far out there.

This guy came from my friends at All Time Toys. They’ve got a decent back stock of Power of the Force, and other cool toys both old and new, so please check out their website and their eBay Store.

#2384: Jaina Solo

JAINA SOLO

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES (HASBRO)

Daughter of Leia Organa and Han Solo, Jaina Solo is a Jedi student of Luke Skywalker. Like her father, she is also a crack pilot and skilled mechanic. Like her mother, she is a born leader.”

In the quite lengthy gap between the conclusion of the Star Wars saga with Return of the Jedi and the continuation of said concluded saga with The Force Awakens, in addition to some prequels or something, we got a whole host of tales from the Star Wars Expanded Universe.  There were a few different contenders for follow-ups to Jedi, but in quite a good number of them, Han and Leia had at the very least a daughter named Jaina (the number of siblings Jaina had, their status as good or bad, and their status as alive or dead was up in the air, however).  Jaina was a pretty popular character, but ended up removed wholesale when Disney reset things in order to clear the stage for TFA.  However, in an effort to not completely overlook her, Hasbro did include her as the EU’s first introduction into The Black Series.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Jaina Solo is figure 56 in the Black Series line-up, hitting in an assortment that included a single-carded Supreme Leader Snoke, Rose, and the slightly revised Jedi Training Rey.  Jaina is officially classified as a “Legends” figure, denoting her status as removed from the cannon.  She was also the winner of the 2016 Fan’s Choice poll, which was what actually got the EU recognition into the line, really.  The figure stands just over 5 1/2 inches tall and she has 28 points of articulation.  Jaina was actually the first real taste of Hasbro’s new mid-torso articulation they were working on, as it’s the same style of joint that would eventually show up on the Lightning Collection figures last year.  It’s got a lot more range, which is pretty much an across the board thing for Jaina’s articulation, really.  The figure sports an all-new sculpt, and quite an impressive one at that.  Jaina is seen here in her pilot’s attire, which was a change from her prior 3 3/4 inch figure, which went with her Jedi robes.  Personally, I much prefer this look, and it helped keep her a little more visually distinctive from Rey, so that’s definitely a plus.  Unlike prior pilots, Jaina’s web gear and vest are totally removable, allowing for a more tactical on the go jumpsuited look.  I would love to see this sort of thing implemented on a Luke or Poe figure in the future, because it honestly works quite well here.  Jaina’s likeness in an interesting one, because she doesn’t have an established actress or anything, but she’s supposed to look like her parents.  They’re kind of merged some features from both Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford into one, and it actually looks pretty convincing (although, for some reason, I can’t help but see Amanda Bynes in there).  Jaina’s paintwork is a lot of dark colors (she was a stealth pilot after all), but it’s a cool look.  The paintwork is quite crisp, and there are some nice subtleties to the shades of black mixed throughout.  She had the misfortune of being from literally the last assortment not to feature the printed faces, but hers is at least pretty clean.  In addition to the previously mentioned removable web gear, Jaina also includes her lightsaber, a blaster pistol, and a removable pilot’s helmet to complete her ensemble.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I never once saw Jaina in stores, due to her being the most demanded figure in her assortment by far.  By the time Hasbro did some revision cases to get more of her out there, and her value had plummeted on the aftermarket, I had kind of gotten distracted, and I just never got around to grabbing her.  Fortunately for me, one got traded in as part of the same collection that included yesterday’s Ahsoka.  Like that one, this is a surprisingly good figure, but that’s an even higher bar to clear for this one, since I already was expecting something really good.  She’s a really solid addition to the line.

#2107: Kyle Katarn

KYLE KATARN

STAR WARS: POWER OF THE FORCE II (KENNER)

“It is a period of civil war. The Rebel Alliance struggles to free the galaxy from the clutches of the evil Galactic Empire. Discovering that Imperial forces have begun developing a new type of stormtrooper, the Rebels call on mercenary Kyle Katarn. His mission: seek out and destroy the secret Imperial project called Dark Trooper. A rogue mercenary loyal to no one, Kyle Katarn has accepted a near-impossible mission to destroy the Empire’s ability to develop an army of unstoppable stormtroopers known as Dark Troopers.”

Remember two years ago when I looked at two figures from the Expanded Universe sub-line of Power of the Force?  Well, would you look at that? I’ve finally made my way back to the rest of them.  For their first real go at Expanded Universe offerings, Kenner aimed to diversify, focusing on several different EU tales.  Included among those was the 1996 video game Dark Forces, which covers the (original version of the) acquisition of the Death Star plans, before delving a bit into its own lore.  The player plays as Kyle Katarn, a Rebellion-hired mercenary, who would make his action figure debut in the EU line.  I’ll be looking at said figure today!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Kyle Katarn is the first of the two Dark Forces-themed figures released in the Expanded Universe sub-line.  He hit shelves in 1998 and, like all of the EU figures, was a little bit scarce.  Though his bio is definitely referencing Dark Forces, and all reference material points to him being based on that game, Kyle’s design is actually a fair bit closer to the game’s sequel, Jedi Knight.  There are definitely some merged elements, and you can be a little bit forgiving with the ’90s graphics, the biggest giveaway is Kyle’s beard, since he didn’t have that in the first game.  They’ve even edited the illustration of him from the first game in order to make him closer to the figure.  Why did they decide to go with the second game’s look?  Well, there are a few possible reasons, but my main guess is that giving him the beard made him more immediately distinguishable from Han, as well as the other EU Han-stand-in Dash Rendar.  You wouldn’t want to confuse the fans, would you?  The figure stands 3 3/4 inches tall and he has 6 points of articulation.  He sports a unique sculpt, which, while pre-posed, is still fairly manageable.  By this point, the proportions issues of the PotF2 were essentially gone.  Kyle’s still definitely a product of his time, but that’s more because Kyle, the character, is a product of his time.  The face on this figure does seem a little friendlier than I’d expect from a supposed mercenary, but it’s still quite a nice offering.  I also like some of the liberties they’ve taken with some of the costume elements; in particular, I really dig his chest armor.  Kyle’s colors are a little bit brighter than the usual Star Wars fair, which works pretty well for him.  The application is pretty clean, and there’s even a little bit of weathering on the boots.  Kyle was packed with two different styles of blaster, allowing him to swap between them as he would in the game.  And, since I got him still in-package, he also has a 3D-fold-out display base, which places him in front of an Imperial Shuttle.  I really love these things.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Back in the day, the only EU figures I had were Luke and the Emporer, due to how hard the line-up was to find at retail.  When I started filling in holes in my PotF collection, these guys were all very near the top of my list, but they don’t show up super often, and I was insistent that they still be packaged.  I ended up getting fairly lucky with these, as a complete set was traded into All Time Toys a few months back, and they let me take (most) of them, for a pretty good deal at that.  Having not played the Dark Forces games personally, my interaction with Kyle is peripheral at best, but I still have fond memories of staring at his prototype all those years ago in a Star War fan magazine.  The figure’s pretty typical for the line, which is to say he’s pretty fun.

*Kyle is also notable for another reason: he’s the 5000th unique figure to be added to my collection!  That’s way too many, right?  Or is it not enough?

#1488: Luke Skywalker – Dark Empire

LUKE SKYWALKER – DARK EMPIRE

STAR WARS: EXPANDED UNIVERSE (KENNER)

“Six years after the destruction of the second Death Star, the galaxy is thrust into turmoil. A reborn evil threatens to enslave the galaxy, and the Republic’s closest friend – Luke Skywalker – may become their greatest enemy. Freed from their detention cell, a group of rebels begin their escape from the Imperial planet Byss. But the sudden appearance of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Master, could mean unfortunate news for the Rebels. Has Luke fallen under the spell of the dark side?”

Remember two weeks ago when I was talking about the Star Wars Expanded Universe?  Well, hows about a little more of that?  Yeah, let’s go with that.  It’s another Dark Empire figure!  Wooooo!  This time, it’s Luke Skywalker, in his ‘90s anti-hero phase.  Let’s have a look!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Dark Empire Luke Skywalker was another of the four Dark Empire figures in the one and only series of Kenner’s Star Wars: Expanded Universe line.  The figure stands about 3 1/2 inches tall and he has 7 points of articulation.  Like the Clone Emperor, the seventh point of articulation is on his wrist (though this time it was the right one), which was more to allow for the removal of Luke’s hand…which is why my figure is missing his right hand.  Luke had a totally unique sculpt, based on his bad-boy look from the Dark Empire comics.  It’s sort of goofy and definitely dated, but I can’t help but find it endearing.  By this point in time, Kenner had lost the bulky, puffy look of their early ‘90s Star Wars figures, so this guy doesn’t look anywhere near as goofy, at least proportion-wise.  The head was a new mold, showcasing Luke’s extra bouncy hair from Dark Empire, but it has the same facial construction as Kenner’s second-generation PotF2 Luke heads, which had a slightly better Hamill likeness.  It’s a little strange that he’s ended up looking so much younger, but I don’t think it looks terrible at all.  Luke’s paint is pretty solid overall.  I think it’s a bit more pleasing to the eye than the Clone Emperor, and the application is generally pretty clean.  Luke included a lightsaber—red to denote his flirting with the Dark Side during the events of Dark Empire—as well as a blaster pistol.  He also included another of the fold-out 3D display stand things, which was pretty cool.  Reeeeeaaaaally wish I still had one of those.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I think this was the first instance of me eagerly awaiting the release of a Star Wars figure.  I was at the local Another Universe at the mall with my Dad, and I saw this guy on the cover of a Star Wars fan magazine, which had the details on the whole Expanded Universe assortment.  My Dad was nice enough to buy the magazine for me, and I remember dragging that thing all over the place while I eagerly awaited this figure’s release.  As I mentioned in the Clone Emperor review, I found this guy in the Farpoint dealer’s room the year he was released, and he was purchased for me by my Grandmother.  He’s a pretty awesome figure, and still remains one of my favorites.

#1474: Clone Emperor Palpatine

CLONE EMPEROR PALPATINE

STAR WARS: EXPANDED UNIVERSE (KENNER)

Six years after the destruction of the second Death Star, the galaxy is thrust into turmoil. A reborn evil threatens to enslave the galaxy, and the Republic’s closest friend – Luke Skywalker – may become their greatest enemy. With the power to transfer his consciousness to genetic clones, a younger, stronger Emperor Palpatine is perilously close to gaining total control of the galaxy forever.”

Following the conclusion of the original Star Wars movies, there was no immediate follow up planned.  The prequels were still just a concept, and the sequel trilogy wasn’t even a glimmer in Kathleen Kennedy’s eye.  The next best thing was the Expanded Universe, which fans latched onto pretty quickly.  In the ’90s, in the midst of their re-launched toy line, Kenner created an EU-centered sub-line.  Amongst that line were two figures based on the “Dark Empire” story, which included today’s figure, Clone Emperor Palpatine.

THE FIGURE ITSELF 

Clone Emperor Palpatine was released in Kenner’s one series Star Wars: Expanded Universe line in 1998.  As noted in the intro, this figure hails from “Dark Empire,” a story which sees Palpatine brought back in a series of cloned bodies.  Without the name on the package to go by, you could be forgiven for not recognizing this as Palpatine, since he’s noticeably less wrinkly than he usually is.  The figure stands about 3 1/2 inches tall (the EU figures were a little smaller) and he has 7 points of articulation.  Where’s that extra point coming from you ask?  Why, from his left wrist.  And why just the left wrist?  Because it’s actually just a side effect of making the left hand removable.  It was actually pretty common around this period of Kenner’s Star Wars figures, before they realized they could do more with that joint than just detachable limbs.  Now, you may have noticed my Emperor has no left hand.  I lost it.  Silly me.  Palpatine’s sculpt was unique to him.  It showed Kenner’s trend towards much less exaggerated stylings, and honestly feels more like a vintage figure than a lot of his compatriots. His robe is a separate, removable piece, which goes on and off pretty easily, and is a pretty solid sculpt to boot.  The paint work on this guy is about on par with the rest of Kenner’s offerings around the time.  It’s all cleanly applied, and the details are fairly sharp.  It’s not terribly exciting, but there it is. Palpatine was packed with a light saber–blue, so as to leave everyone all confused and shocked.  There was also this cool 3D fold-out playset thing with all of these figures.  I really wish I still had that.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I can’t tell you exactly why I got this guy.  I got him from the Farpoint dealer’s room, back when he was new.  He shortly followed my acquisition of Luke from the same series.  I think I just wanted someone to go with him.