#2261: Prince Xizor

PRINCE XIZOR

STAR WARS: SHADOWS OF THE EMPIRE (KENNER)

“Prince Xizor is the head of the galaxy-wide criminal organization known as Black Sun, his power and influence challenged only by the Emperor and Darth Vader. A villainous mastermind, Xizor uses his huge , intergalactic shipping operations as a legitimate front, employing millions of criminals to execute favors for the Empire and carry out its his own evil agenda. His characteristic lack of emotion is due much to his Falleen ancestry which evolved from a species of reptile. Cold and clever, he plots his moves with a diabolical genius and fights with the skill of a tera kasi master, stopping at nothing to get in his way. Those that dare challenge Xizor generally meet with death by his own hand or by one of his myriad of henchmen. His favorite proverb: “To contend with Xizor is to lose”.”

In 1996, the Star Wars expanded universe got its first real time in the public spotlight, courtesy of the multimedia event that was Shadows of the Empire.  A movie launch without the movie, Shadows encompassed books, comics, video games, and of course toys, and told a story set in the gap between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  Since it was set between two established chunks of the story, there wasn’t very much at stake just pitting our heroes against Vader’s forces, since we all knew the outcome wouldn’t arise until the end of Jedi.  This meant there needed to be a new villain.  Enter Prince Xizor, a villain whose imposing nature was hindered only by not being Darth Vader in a universe where Darth Vader exists.  Oh, and also by totally having his look stolen by Ivan Ooze a year prior.  Xizor was central to much of the story’s marketing, and wound up with two figures from Kenner for their part of the tie-in.  I’m looking at the standard single release today.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Prince Xizor is the final single-carded figure in the Shadows of the Empire spin-off line of Power of the Force II figures.  The figure stands 3 3/4 inches tall and he has 6 points of articulation.  That said, only the arms really have practical movement most of the time, thanks both to the weird braids on the back of his head, and the thick plastic robe that encases most of the figure.  A lot of this Xizor’s sculpt is shared with the two-pack release of the same time, but it remains unique to the character.  That’s…good?  I mean, it’s certainly different from everything else.  That said, Xizor was generally depicted as a fairly skinny guy, and this figure does not follow that set-up.  He definitely falls into that really buff PotF2 aesthetic, and perhaps exemplifies it even more than other figures from the main line.  It’s really only exaggerated by the really bulky robe, but even with that removed, it’s still not great.  I mean…there’s some interesting detail work going on under the robe, so that’s cool, but it’s not like it’s a particularly endearing design.  It’s a relic of its time at best.   The colorscheme is also a definite relic, and easily feels like the least Star Wars-y aspect of the character.  Neither purple nor the pale green feel like the fit the established Star Wars color scheme, especially the colors of the original trilogy era.  The application on the paint is decent enough, but that doesn’t really change how out of place he feels with the others from the line.  Xizor is packed with a pair of shield blades, which can snap together into one larger shield.  They’re nifty enough, and honestly one of the more exciting parts of the figure, because they’re unique if nothing else.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Even as a kid, I never liked Xizor.  He always felt like an intruder, trying to hide amongst the rest of the Star Wars line, but always sticking out.  As such, I never owned him.  But, after managing to get everyone else from the Shadows line, I felt it was wrong for him to still be missing.  I ended up grabbing him during one of my PotF buying sprees last winter.  There were a lot of figures, so I guess that made buying Xizor a little more palatable.  He’s still not really a favorite of mine, and having the figure in hand hasn’t really changed any of my opinions about it or the character, but here it is, I guess.

#1558: Swoop Vehicle

SWOOP VEHICLE (w/ SWOOP TROOPER)

STAR WARS: SHADOWS OF THE EMPIRE (KENNER)

“The Empire’s broad reach has included thousands of planets in the galaxy. With such a vast territory to police, the Empire often pays bounty hunters huge sums for the capture or elimination of certain “wanted” individuals. The mercenaries favored by the Empire are expert trackers and assassins, dangerous individuals who are highly intelligent and extremely skilled in both weapons use and air combat. A preferred vehicle of many of these elite bounty hunters is the swoop, a brawny speeder craft most often associated with gangs and outlaws such as the Nova Demons and the Dark Star Hellions; its toughness and incredible speed make it a perfect mount for bounty hunters.”

For the most part, Shadows of the Empire’s focus was placed on our recognizable heroes and villains, filling in a few gaps in their personal stories.  Totally new concepts weren’t a huge piece of it.  Sure, there were the likes of Dash and his ship the Outrider, but they were really just quick concepts thrown together to replace a popular character who couldn’t actually be in the story.  There were a few more original concepts, but mostly off to the side, such as today’s focus, the Swoop speeder!

THE VEHICLE ITSELF

Following in the vein of Return of the Jedi’s Speeder Bikes, here’s the Swoop.  It’s sort of the chopper of the galaxy far, far away, I suppose.  Of the three vehicles offered in Shadows of the Empire packaging, this is certainly the smallest.  It’s about 6 inches long and stands 2 1/2 inches tall.  The cannon on the side swings up and down, but beyond that there’s no other moving pieces.  Not a shock on a vehicle of this nature, though, and its not like the design really allows for them.  It’s a decent enough design for a bike in the Star Wars ‘verse, matching up alright with what we’ve seen in the movies, while also not being a total retread.  The sculpt is fairly well rendered, albeit perhaps not as intricately as some of the actual movie designs.  It lacks some of the smaller details that sold that whole “used future” aspect of the franchise.  Still, it’s a visually intriguing design, and it fits well with the rest of what Kenner was doing at the time.  The paintwork on the bike is pretty solid stuff.  A lot of red and silver, but it looks good, and there’s some pretty cool accent work on the larger sections of the bike.  Smaller details are handled via decals instead of actual paint.  The decals are fine, but they are a bit less advanced than the sort of thing you’d see now, thereby making them rather obvious.  That said, the bike certainly looks better with them than without them.  The bike includes a missile for the cannon, which has a spring-loaded feature.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Included with the Swoop is its own dedicated pilot, simply dubbed the “Swoop Trooper.”  Very original name there.  The package proudly boasts that this figure is exclusive to this particular set, and, unlike a lot of Kenner/Hasbro’s “exclusive” pack-in figures, it actually stuck for this guy.  I’d guess that’s largely due to his obscurity…and reminder, this is a Star Wars figure I’m taking about here.  The figure stands 3 3/4 inches tall and he has 7 points of articulation.  The bike pilots all got extra articulation at the knees, which I was always a fan of, though he does end up losing the waist joint.  This figure also has a different neck joint; instead of the usual swivel joint, he’s got a hinge sort of thing, which allows him to look up and down instead.  The same joint had previously been used on the Biker Scout from the main Power of the Force II line, and, while I don’t mind it, it certainly made a bit more sense on that figure than it does on this one.  The Swoop Trooper’s design was, of course, created wholesale for the Shadows of the Empire event.  It’s alright, but, like a lot of the Shadows designs, it doesn’t necessarily fit the classic Star Wars aesthetic, instead falling into more typical ‘90s comics design concepts.  It’s certainly not a bad design, but I can’t say it’s a favorite of mine.  Still, it’s a decent sculpt of a decent design.  I certainly appreciate the presence of some shared armor elements between this guy and some of the other troopers (namely the knee pads from the Biker Scout).  In terms of paint, the Trooper is a bit of a step up from the bike, since there’s a bit more going on.  I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the assortment of browns, as they aren’t a super thrilling combo.  That said, application is all pretty clean, and he looks respectable enough.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

The Swoop bike was a rather recent addition to my collection.  I missed a lot of the Shadows of the Empire stuff when it was new, so I’ve been piecing it together little by little.  I found this set at Lost in Time during their winter sale.  Since it was like $5, I figured it was worth it to finally grab it.  Not the most thrilling thing to come out of the franchise, but it’s another solid offering from Kenner’s ‘90s Star Wars output.

#1544: Luke Skywalker in Imperial Guard Disguise

LUKE SKYAWALKER IN IMPERIAL GUARD DISGUISE

STAR WARS: SHADOWS OF THE EMPIRE (KENNER)

“The Empire’s victory in the Battle of Hoth has brought hard times for the Rebel Alliance. Han Solo has been frozen in carbonite by Darth Vader, and two huge bounties have been placed on the head of Luke Skywalker. The Emperor wants him alive, but Prince Xizor , underlord of the most powerful criminal organization in the galaxy, wants him dead. Worse still is that the diabolical Xizor is holding Princess Leia Organa prisoner in his castle on the Imperial Center of Coruscant. this is a tactical maneuver, part of a larger master plan to lure Luke Skywalker into his castle where he can be easily eliminated — the key step in Xizor’s plan to replace Darth Vader at the Emperor’s side. unaware of this danger, the young Jedi and Lando Calrissian sneak into Imperial City hoping to rescue Leia. Simplylaying foot on Coruscant is a dangerous act for these two: high on the Empire’s list of most-wanted outlaws, they could easily be recognized and captured — or assassinated. Disguising themselves as beggars, they “borrow” the armored uniforms from a pair of elite Coruscant stormtroopers. These troopers are some of the Empire’s finest, selected as home guards for the wealthiest and most cultured city in the galaxy. Joining forces with Chewbacca and Dash Rendar, Skywalker and Calrissian attempt to infiltrate Xizor’s nearly impenetrable stronghold and rescue the princess.”

1996’s Shadows of the Empire was important, in that it was the first time the public at large had been introduced to the Star Wars Expanded Universe.  It’s also an interesting experiment in marketing, essentially being a movie merchandising campaign that lacked a movie.  There were a handful of figures, mixed in with Kenner’s then running Power of the Force II.  Newcomers Dash Rendar and Prince Xizor got figures, of course, but there were also new variants of out heroes Luke, Leia, and Chewbacca, all of whom had to take on disguises during this new story.  I’ve looked at both Leia and Chewbacca, which just leaves Luke, who I’ll be reviewing today.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Luke Skywalker in Imperial Guard Disguise was released in the basic figure assortment of Kenner’s Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire line.  The figure stands about 3 3/4 inches tall and he has 6 points of articulation.  This Luke uses the same head as all of the other early PotF2 Lukes.  It’s not the best likeness, but hey, here’s to consistency, right? The rest of the figure is brand new.  The packaging dubs his look as “Imperial Guard Disguise,” a name that tends to conjure up the red guards from Return of the Jedi, who look quite a bit different than the look Luke is sporting here.  However, the bio fills us in that this armor is actually from one of the elite Stormtroopers on Coruscant, making it a separate look entirely.  As with so much of the design work seen in Shadows, the armor is undeniably a product of mid-90s comic book design, meaning it’s a little divorced from the original trilogy designs.  His armor’s bulky and ultra padded, and seems to lack that used look we’re so accustomed to.  It’s a little hard to reconcile this as a design that would appear in between Empire and Jedi.  That being said, it’s hardly a terrible look.  In fact, it manages to be rather unique and helps this Luke to stand out a bit from the crowd of other Lukes from over the years.  The paint work on this figure is fairly decent, and, like the rest of his design, fairly unique.  The red’s a nice shade, and all of the application is pretty clean.  He’s packed with a removable helmet and half-cape to help complete his full disguise.  Since Luke lost his father’s lightsaber in Empire and didn’t build a new one until the beginning of Jedi, he of course needed a new weapon, so this figure included a taser staff weapon.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

This figure was, I believe, my first Shadows of the Empire figure.  My cousin Noah had saved up to buy the PotF2 Millennium Falcon, and was along for the trip to go buy it.  Noah’s mother, who took us on the trip, agreed to get me one figure.  Luke was my favorite character, and this figure appealed to my 5-year-old self, so he was the one I picked.  I’d say having this guy in my collection already was probably what pushed me to pick up the Bounty Hunter Chewbacca instead of the normal one, and owning these two is certainly not a decision I regret in the slightest.

#1390: Princess Leia Organa as Boushh

PRINCESS LEIA ORGANA AS BOUSHH

STAR WARS: SHADOWS OF THE EMPIRE (KENNER)

“After Han Solo was captured by Boba Fett, several attempts were made on Luke Skywalker’s life which threatened the future of the Rebellion. Princess Leia Organa and Chewbacca sought to protect the young Jedi, and traveled to Coruscant to follow up leads surrounding these attempts. They hoped to draw from the extreme intelligence gathering network of the Black Sun, a criminal organization whose operations extended to the farthest reaches of the galaxy. Because Coruscant is the homeworld of the Empire- a dangerous place for any member of the Rebel Alliance- Leia disguised herself as the renowned Ubesian bounty hunter Boushh. Boushh’s helmet concealed her entire face while a built-in voxscrambler altered her voice to resemble that of an Ubesian; a false I.D. and code taken from Black Sun completed her disguise and provided a safe level of anonymity. Little did she know that Prince Xizor, Underlord of Black Sun, was behind the murder attempts on Skywalker, and had his sights set on Leia as well.”

Long bio there.  How do you follow that, amirite?  Um, so, yeah, today’s another Star Wars review. Yaaaay.  This time around I’m taking a look at another Princess Leia figure, specifically the one from that time she pretended to be a bounty hunter.  Everybody loves bounty hunters!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Leia in Boushh disguise was released not as part of the main Power of the Force II line, but instead as part of the basic assortment of Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (she would later see a re-release on a standard PotF2 green card, though).  She has the notoriety of being the only movie-based figure in the line-up.  The figure stands about 3 3/4 inches tall and has 6 points of articulation.  As with the PotF2 Slave Leia figure, this Leia is a bit on the tall side.  This was a recurring issue early into this line; at least they were consistent, right?  Leia sports a unique sculpt. It’s fairly decent for the time, being only slightly pre-posed and generally pretty decently proportioned.  It captures the look from the movie pretty well, and only makes minor stylistic adjustments.  The thermal detonator in her left hand is permanently attached, which removes a little bit of versatility from the figure, but given how integral that piece is to her intro in Jedi, I’m willing to give them a pass.  The head doesn’t exactly look like Carrie Fisher, but it also doesn’t look like a chimpanzee, which puts it ahead of most of the Leias of the time.  The paintwork on Leia is generally pretty solid.  The colors match well enough with what we see on-screen, and the application is all pretty clean.  Leia was packed with a removable helmet and half-cape to complete her Boushh look, as well as the usual staff, which according to the packaging is actually a blaster rifle.  Who knew?  I certainly didn’t.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

This wasn’t my first Leia (that was the monkey-faced ANH version), but this figure has the distinction of being my go-to Leia for most of my childhood.  I actually don’t 100% recall where this figure came from.  She was probably a gift, likely for my birthday, but that’s really just me making an educated guess.  Nevertheless, this was my favorite Leia for a good long while, and is the strongest of the ’90s Leia figures.  This figure is pretty much single-handedly responsible for my love of Leia as Boushh.

#1348: Dash Rendar

DASH RENDAR

STAR WARS: SHADOWS OF THE EMPIRE (KENNER)

“In all the galaxy there are few who can fly and shoot like Dash Rendar. Many years ago, as a cadet at the Imperial Acadmey, he continually impressed his superiors with the ability to push vessels beyond their usual limits, executing maneuvers his ships were never meant to perform. He held great promise as a future Imperial officer until a freight vessel piloted by his brother malfunctioned and crashed on Coruscant, destroying a private museum that housed many of the Emperor’s treasures. Though the mishap was not the pilot’s fault, the Emperor banished Rendar’s family and had Dash expelled from the academy. Given his bold disregard for regulation and arrogant confidence, it is doubtful that Dash would have fit in well within the ranks of the Empire anyway. He never hesitates to boast of his skills as an expert pilot and gunner. After his dismissal from the academy, he began a career as a thief and gambler, but soon discovered that his exceptional flying skills were a great asset in the smuggling business. He quickly became very successful, making his services expensive but guaranteed for the right price.”

That is a lot of bio right there.  And it’s especially long for a character who could best be summed up as “Han Solo for that one story where they needed Han Solo, but he was all frozen and stuff.”  That’s my official bio for him, anyway.  Dash is one of the earliest examples of a wholly Expanded Universe character appearing in a Star Wars toyline (he and Prince Xizor, from the same story, appeared at the same time), which is actually pretty nifty.  Sadly, that’s the only time he’s ever gotten a figure, but at least he got the one, meaning that I can review it here today!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Dash Rendar was released in the first and only series of Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, a spin-off of Kenner’s Power of the Force II line.  The figure stands a little over 3 3/4 inches tall and he has 6 points of articulation.  Dash has a unique sculpt, which was based on a number of Dash’s various designs.  Yes, as a totally non-film character, Dash didn’t have one particular design, just more of a general set of generally consistent elements.  He’s got the armor and the padded jumpsuit, which showed up just about everywhere.  He’s also got long sleeves, which kind of look to be unique to this figure; most depictions of him were bare-armed.  To be fair, the sleeves make him fit in a little better with the rest of the Star Wars characters.  In general, Dash’s design really is Han Solo if Han Solo had been designed by a comic book artist in the ‘90s, which is to say he’s a little ridiculous and over-designed.  On the plus side, the slightly exaggerated proportions and pose that most of the PotF2 figures had is right at home with Dash’s uber ‘90s design, which does make him a little more consistent as a whole.  In general, there’s some pretty solid work on Dash’s sculpt.  There’s a lot of fine detail work that you didn’t usually see on figures of this vintage.  Dash’s paint work is pretty decent as well.  The colors are slightly garish, but that fits the character, and at the very least the application’s all really sharp.  The figure was packed with two blasters, one large and one small.  There’s also a back pack, with a little arm that can attach to the larger blaster.  You know, for….reasons.  I don’t know *what* reasons, but I’m sure there are some.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I didn’t have this Dash figure growing up (though I *did* have his Micro Machine), but I always kind of wanted one.  Of course, since he was the only truly unique figure in the set, he was a little more scarce than the other figures.  I’ve been on the look out for him for a little while, and I ended up finding him at Pop Culture Exchange in Omaha, while on my way back home from Seattle.  Sure, he’s super, super ‘90s, but that’s kind of the best thing about him.  Guess I’m gonna have to get the Outrider for him to pilot now.  Oh darn.

#0672: Bounty Hunter Chewbacca

BOUNTY HUNTER CHEWBACCA

STAR WARS: POWER OF THE FORCE II

ChewieBountyHunter1

My first introduction to Star Wars toys was courtesy of Kenner’s Power of the Force II line of figures. The interesting thing is that I came into the line during the second round of figures, so some of my initial versions of the main characters weren’t exactly standard issue. I’ve already discussed how Dagobah training Luke was my first figure in the line, and some of the other main characters followed a similar pattern. Chewbacca was one such character, which seems a little odd, since you wouldn’t think there would be a lot of potential Chewbacca variants. Well, faithful reader, feast your eyes on Bounty Hunter Chewbacca!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

ChewieBountyHunter2Bounty Hunter Chewbacca was part of the second year of Power of the Force II figures. He was released as part of a small subset of figures based on Shadows of the Empire, which is a story set between Empire and Jedi. In the story, Chewbacca has to take on the guise of well-known Wookie bounty hunter Snoova in order to infiltrate Imperial City. So, technically, this figure could pass for either character. This is only the third time that Chewbacca had made it into the 3 ¾ inch line, which is surprisingly low, given his prominence. The figure stands a little over 4 inches tall and has 6 points of articulation. As a Chewbacca variant, you might think that this figure would be heavy on reuse. However, that’s not the case, as the only shared part between this and the regular POTF2 Chewie is the left leg. Everything else is new to this guy, though the sculpt maintains more than a few similarities with the regular version. Chewbacca definitely has a slightly exaggerated style about him (as did most of the POTFII figures) but I think this is one of the few figures in the line that really couldn’t work without the slightly cartoony feel. The concept looks pretty nifty here, presented in all its over-complicated 90s glory, but placed on a more realistically proportioned body I dare say it would look downright silly. And being exaggerated certainly doesn’t mean the figure doesn’t have some great texturing. The armor in particular looks sufficiently worn and beaten. Someone had a lot of fun sculpting this guy. This version of Chewbacca also got some of the very best paintwork POTF2 had to offer. All of the base paint is cleanly applied, with minimal bleed over. He’s also got some pretty nice work on his fur, which, in story, has patches died to make him look more like Snoova. They could have just been solid blotches of color, but they’ve actually been worked in rather subtly, making them look like they’re actually died into his fur. Chewbacca was packed with a giant blaster and a sci-fi looking axe, which both just add to the 90s over-complication thing. They can both be held, or the axe can also be plugged into his back for storage.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

This guy was my very first Chewbacca figure. If I recall correctly, Chewie was one of the last main characters I got. I remember that my Grandmother took me to the store (Sears, I think) specifically because I had asked to get a Chewbacca figure. I seem to recall that both versions of Chewbacca were there, but I picked this one. Even then I knew what cool was! The one pictured is actually a replacement I picked up a few months ago, as the original got lost some ways back. I have to admit, I was ready to tear into this one for its absurdity when I first sat down to write this, but I’ve come out of the review with a rekindled love for this X-Treme little guy.