#2816: Carnor Jax

CARNOR JAX (AKA KIR KANOS)

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES (HASBRO)

NOTE: This review was written before June 6th.

“Training himself in the ways of the dark side of the Force, Carnor Jax became one of the most formidable members of the Imperial Guard. He betrayed this brotherhood by usurping the Imperial throne.”

Remember back on Sunday, when I was talking about how all the Royal Guards do in the movies is just stand around?  Well, I wasn’t the only one who noticed that, which is good, what with it having been a rather obvious thing that was happening right there on the screen.  In an effort to remedy things somewhat, the Expanded Universe came into play, with Crimson Empire, a six issue comic which explored the background of a few members of the Royal Guard, and then followed them through to just past Palpatine’s demise in Jedi.  Central to the story are Carnor Jax and Kir Kanos, two guards who fall on opposite sides of a rather vicious power struggle.  The two of them have been privy to a few figures over the years, but The Black Series is finally taking a real stab at some comics-based material, and one of them got to be the first one up to bat.  But which one?  Oh, I’ll get to that.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Carnor Jax is one of four figures in a special assortment of comics-inspired Black Series figures, each based off of a different story, and in nice, fancy boxes, patterned on the covers of the books they hail from.  Or, at least, that’s what I’d be saying if there were actually a Carnor Jax Black Series figure.  Trouble is, there’s actually not.  Despite the name on the box and the bio that accompanies it, the figure in today’s review isn’t actually Carnor Jax; it’s Kir Kanos.  Somewhere along the way, Hasbro mixed up the names for the two characters, and without any time to fix it after the reveal, they can pretty much only say “sorry” and move one.  It does make more sense for Kir to be the debut figure, of course, since he’s kind of the story’s main character anyway.  But it’s another amusing mix-up.  The figure stands about 6 inches tall and he has 6 points of articulation. Kir is structurally a re-use of the molds from the standard Royal Guard, which I suppose is fitting, since the armor under the robes was patterned on what we saw in Crimson Empire anyway, and therefore matches Kir’s design pretty well.  It’s not a bad sculpt, though it does still have the slightly too long arms.  It’s too bad they didn’t retool him to give him a removable helmet, like the 3 3/4 inch version.  As it stands, there’s very little to actually differentiate him.  He does swap the full cloak of the other one for a more straight-forward cape, which does at least make it easier to see the armor on this one.  The cape’s also got a nice purple lining, which is again a bit more different.  Other than that, the changes are all to do with paint.  Again, not major changes, but the jumpsuit’s black now, some of the reds are shifted around a bit, and the visor’s more of a maroon.  It’s mostly changes that you might not even notice if you didn’t have the two figures side by side.  Kir gets the small pistol from the last release, as well as a new double-bladed axe thing.  It’s a cool design, but he does have a little trouble holding it.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I’ve never read Crimson Empire, but I’m familiar with the concepts, and I do generally like the looks of the two main guys.  I missed out on their smaller scale figures, so new ones aren’t a problem for me.  What is a problem, though, is how phoned in this whole thing feels.  Starting with getting the names mixed up, and ending with not actually investing in any new tooling beyond the one weapon, this figure’s a bit of a let-down.  I wanted to like him a lot more, but I struggle to.  Maybe if they do Carnor for real, and possibly throw in an unmasked head for Kir or something, my opinion might change, but this figure’s a bit lackluster, at least as a new offering.  If you never got the Royal Guard, I imagine you might have a differing opinion, since he is, in a vacuum, at least, a decent toy.

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

#2813: Emperor’s Royal Guard

EMPEROR’S ROYAL GUARD

STAR WARS: POWER OF THE FORCE II (KENNER)

NOTE: This review was written before June 6th.

“Only the most promising soldiers are chosen to serve as Emperor Palpatine’s personal guards. Experts in many forms of combat, both armed and unarmed, they are conditioned to automatically react to the Emperor’s will.”

Introduced in Return of the Jedi, the Emperor’s Royal Guards don’t really do much of anything on the screen.  The just stand there.  They look cool and all while doing it, but still, it’s just standing.  Then they reappeared in Revenge of the Sith, and did some more standing.  Also got force thrown around by Yoda a bit, which is something, I suppose.  But mostly still with the standing.  The toys, at least early ones, kind of go along with this, being built mostly for said standing.  Behold, a figure that stands!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

The Emperor’s Royal Guard was added to Kenner’s Power of the Force line in 1997.  This marked the second figure of the design, following up on the vintage release from 1983.  The figure stands just shy of 4 inches tall and has a whopping two points of articulation.  Okay, technically three, I suppose, because the neck is sort of jointed.  Doesn’t really move, but they tried.  The Royal Guard was the type of figure referred to as a “salt shaker” by the fanbase, due to his skirted design meaning that his torso was all one immobile piece, much like a common table salt shaker.  While the original figure had placed a whole body beneath the figure’s cloth cape, the cloth pieces weren’t really a thing at this point in the line, and so Kenner just made the underlying body one solid block.  The red cloak is still a separate piece, so you can lift it up and see that they’re nothing impressive beneath it, if you so choose, but it hardly seems worth it.  At the very least, the helmet’s pretty cool.  It’s nice and sharply defined, and just looks pretty clean.  The arms, on the other hand, look kind of chunky for some reason.  Odd choice there.  The paint is virtually non-existent on this figure, apart from the black on his visor.  That was it, with nothing more.  I mean, I guess it works, but it’s not terribly exciting.  The Guard is packed with his little poking stick, and, if you were lucky, a Freeze Frame slide.  I was not lucky.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Seeing as they only really stand there, I never had much attachment to the Royal Guards.  They look cool, but that’s it.  And, when it came to this figure, that really was it.  There’s virtually no play value at all here.  He stands real good, because, well, there’s not actual legs, so it would be hard for him to fall over, now wouldn’t it.  This figure wound up coming to me through a trade I did with Max a couple of years ago.  Mostly I got it because I’m getting all of the Power of the Force figures, and I kind have to get this one, now don’t I?  Honestly the sturdiness is nice from a display standpoint.  If you just want an army of them to stand behind Palpatine at attention, as in the movie, this is honestly your best bet.  So, maybe he’s not without value.  But he’s still not a great toy on his own.

#1655: Guardians of Evil

SENATE GUARD, IMPERIAL ROYAL GUARD, EMPEROR’S SHADOW GUARD, & ELITE PRAETORIAN GUARD

STAR WARS: THE BLACK SERIES (HASBRO)

Hey, it’s May the 4th!  You guys know what that means…it’s the original Infinity War release date!  Nah, just kidding.  It’s obviously Star Wars Day.  In honor of the day, I’ll be taking a look at a Star Wars-themed item.  I have a few of those lying around here, I think. <Checks the mountains of un-reviewed figures>  Yeah, I think I can manage that.  So, let’s have a look at the “Guardians of Evil” boxed set!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

The Senate, Imperial Royal, Emperor’s Shadow, and Elite Praetrorian Guards were released as part of the Star Wars: The Black Series line, as the GameStop-exclusive “Guardians of Evil” boxed set, which hit just after last year’s Force Friday II event.

SENATE GUARD

“For centuries, the Senate Guards kept the galaxy’s legislators from harm while they went about the Republic’s business on the capital world of Coruscant.  With the decline of the Republic, the blue guards were phased out by the Imperial stormtrooper patrols and the red guard in the Emperor’s service.”

Though largely forgettable, the Senate Guards appear in both Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, and were technically in Revenge of the Sith, I guess.  Their best showcase, however, came via the Clone Wars cartoon, where, admittedly, they had a slightly tweaked design.  Of course, the film design is essentially the same as the Royal Guard, thereby allowing for some serious parts re-use.  The figure stands 6 inches tall and he has 26 points of articulation.  The Senate Guard’s sculpt is a mixed-media affair.  The bulk of it is sculpted, though it’s largely hidden by a cloth cape.  A cape, which, by the way, is a lot better tailored than a lot of the cloth parts from this particular line.  Under the cape, there’s a fully detailed, fully armored body.  This armor design first showed up in toy form back during the Revenge of the Sith days, shared by the Senate and Royal Guards from that line.  The sculpt is top-notch, and the armor is nice and sharp.  The arms are just a touch on the long side, but that makes them look a bit better when the cape is pulled down.  The Senate Guard’s helmet is actually one of my favorite designs from the prequels.  It’s got this cool futuristic Spartan warrior flair to it, which is quite fun.  The paint work on the Senate Guard is quite subtle, with lots of variations of blue.  The armor is appropriately shiny, which looks nice.  The blue on the cape matches pretty well with the paint and molded plastic, which is definitely a plus.  The Senate Guard is packed with a blaster rifle, which he can hold in his hands, or sling over his shoulder, as well as a small blaster to keep in his hip holster.

IMPERIAL ROYAL GUARD

“Resplendent in crimson robes and armor, the Imperial Royal Guard protected the Emperor.  Secrecy shrouded the Guard, with rumors abounding about the sentinels’ backgrounds and combat capabilities.”

By far the best known of the four designs seen in this set.  The Royal Guard never does much in Jedi, but they sure look cool, and they’re one of the Empire’s most distinctive designs.  This figure’s actually a pretty straight re-release of the single-released Royal Guard from last year.  Of course, that one was pretty scarce, so the re-release was more than warranted.  Apart from the head, this figure’s sculpt is identical to the Senate Guard.  He had it first, so it’s fair.  The helmet is a pretty perfect recreation of the simplistic design from the movie, and sits perfectly on the body.  The paint work on this guy is the same as the Senate Guard’s but with shades of red instead of blue.  The differences between the reds are a bit more pronounced, though, which I think looks a little bit better.  The Royal Guard includes a staff, and the  same blaster pistol as the Senate Guard.

EMPEROR’S SHADOW GUARD

“Each one of these elite guards is specially chosen by Palpatine for his exceptional loyalty to the Empire, and for his ability to use the Force. Each of the Shadow Guard carries a pike that can be ignited to use as a lightsaber-like blade.”

The Royal Guard has taken the black!  Okay, I’m not actually familiar with this one.  My extensive research (read: I googled “Emperor’s Shadow Guard” and skimmed the link) tells me the concept comes from The Force Unleashed.  That makes this another video game-based figure, which is pretty cool, I guess.  Structurally, the figure’s 100% the same as the Royal Guard, which seems sensible, since they’re essentially the same design.  The main difference is that this one’s been done up in black, so he looks super edgy.  And also super slim, right?  Has he lost weight?  No, it’s just the black.  The Shadow Guard includes a new staff, with a removable laser blade, as well as the blaster pistol from the other two.

ELITE PRAETORIAN GUARD

“As the Supreme Leader of the First Order, Snoke was flanked by crimson-clad guardians, loyal protectors encased in ornate armor ready to defend the Supreme Leader from any threat.”

Last up, we’ve got the most recent, and most unique of the designs in the set, the Praetorian Guard.  I’ve already looked at one Black Series Praetorian Guard.  This one’s got a new hat different helmet.  Hasbro released all three styles of helmet in both scales; this one is the “hat-wearing” helmet that we also saw in the two-pack with Rey.  Probably my least favorite of the three designs, but a solid one nevertheless.  Anyway, this figure stands 6 1/4 inches tall and he has 29 points of articulation.  He’s largely the same figure as the other Praetorian Guard.  The big change is obviously the helmet, which it just as nicely detailed here as it was on the smaller figure.  The other, more subtle change is the skirt, which is now a cloth piece instead of sculpted.  It matches better with the rest of this set, but it means he’s not consistent with the other two Praetorian Guards, which is rather frustrating.  Also, while it improves posability, I don’t find it looks quite as good.  The Praetorian Guard is packed with his axes that snap together into a bladed staff, just like the smaller figure.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I’ve been eying this set up for a while, but it’s got a hefty price tag, so I was biding my time.  As luck would have it, the set went on clearance at Super Awesome Girlfriend’s GameStop, and she was nice enough to buy it for me.  I’m glad I was able to finally get my hands on a basic Royal Guard, and I’m actually thrilled to have the Senate Guard, since it’s one of my favorite designs.  Another Praetorian is never a bad thing either, and the Shadow Guard is fun in his own right.  Overall, quite a fun set, especially since I didn’t have to pay full price for it.

#1169: Akazonae Royal Guard

AKAZONAE ROYAL GUARD

MEISHO MOVIE REALIZATION (BANDAI)

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Alright, we got the Aliens, we got the Super Heroes, so for Day 3 of the post-Christmas reviews, why not look at another cornerstone of my collecting habits: Star Wars!  In fact, this one is a double whammy, being both Star Wars *and* a high-end Bandia figure.  Huzzah!  The main Star Wars toy license for North America is held by Hasbro, who are pretty big into exclusivity and no-competition deals.  Because of this, no other toy company can release Star Wars figures under a certain price in the US, which is why the Star Wars Pop!s are bobble heads, and the Star Wars Sideshow figures carry a hefty price tag.  There are a few workarounds, however.  Bandai’s recently been putting out a line of concept figures, envisioning certain Star Wars characters as they might appear were they in a Samurai film, rather than a Sci-Fi one.  They’ve done a handful of the various Imperial Troopers and today I’ll be looking at my personal favorite, the Akazanae Royal Guard.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

royalguardmr2The Akazonae Royal Guard was released as the sixth figure in Bandai’s Star Wars: Meisho Movie Realization line.  He was originally slated as the fourth release, but was pushed back to follow variants of the Trooper and Darth Vader, and he ultimately hit just this past summer.  The figure stands about 7 inches tall (which was actually a bit larger than I was expecting, but I’m certainly not complaining) and he has 43 points of articulation.  The articulation has a bit of a learning curve to it.  It seems rather stiff at first, but once you get the hang of it, he’s actually a lot of fun to mess around with.  His sculpt is mostly unique to him, but it does appear that he shares at least some parts of the legs with the Storm and Sandtroopers, which is certainly reasonable from a consistency standpoint.  As far as the sculpt goes, he’s a bit tricky to review, what with not actually being based on any specific design.  With that being said, the sculpt is definitely a top-notch piece of work, and it does a good job of combining the Royal Guard’s film design with actual, functioning Samurai armor.  He’s a touch more ornate than previous figures (barring maybe Darth Vader), as he well should be, being an elite royal guard and all.  There’s lots of fun, little details sprinkled throughout the figure, and he incorporates some really nice layer work.  Also, I appreciate that, when configured certain ways, this figure can almost pass for just a slightly more armored version of the standard Royal Guard.  Were he not just a bit larger-royalguardmr3scaled, I’d probably just throw this guy in with my Black Series figures.  You might think that the paint work on this guy might be lax, being pretty much entirely red and all, but he’s actually got some pretty incredible work.  The actual hard armored parts have a nice, semi-gloss sheen, which contrasts nicely with the duller finish of the rest of the figure.  He’s also got a few different shades of red, which keep the whole look interesting.  He’s also got some really great accent work; there’s a black wash on a lot of the armored pieces, giving it a nice worn-in sort of feel.  There’s also some blue/indigo piping on a few sections, which adds a nice bit of flair, and really helps to break up all the red.  All around, this is just a very vibrant, very bold figure, especially when compared to the other figures in the line.  The Royal Guard includes a Katana, a scabbard, a large staff, three pairs of hands (in fists, loose, and tight grip), and a tabard that can be swapped out with the insignia on the front of his armor, thus creating a more classic Royal Guard look.  It’s a fun assortment of pieces, and provides a number of cool different looks.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

The Royal Guard was a Christmas present from my boy Tim.  I’d actually checked the figure out a few times, and it was the first of the Movie Realization figures to really speak to me.  Tim and I had a few conversations about the figure back when it was solicited, and it seems he took note of that.  I really like this figure, a whole lot.  There’s just so much about the design that really works, and I definitely feel he’s the strongest of the Movie Realization line, despite being one of the more minor designs presented therein.  There’s just so many fun ways to pose him and have him interact with others, and now I’m seriously considering picking up one or two of the others in the line at some point (a very dangerous venture indeed).  Thanks, Tim…

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