Oh, Star Wars Black Series, why can’t I quit you? You are a line of figures I really want to walk away from, because you’re all over the place when it comes to sculpts and paint and actor likenesses. But whenever I try to leave you, I keep getting pulled back in by some figure that turned out pretty damn good. And even if I did quit today, I’d still have a good half-dozen or so figures waiting to be reviewed, so let’s get to it. Today I’m looking at a figure that I was really looking forward to, even if he really doesn’t have a place on my display shelf. The Emperor’s Royal Guard!
Or, apparently he goes by Imperial Royal Guard these days, at least according to the box. There was something about the magic of Star Wars that could capture our imaginations with just a cool costume design flashed on a couple of frames of film. Thanks to the old Kenner action figures, I could spend countless hours speculating on a background character, just because I had an action figure of him and needed to invent a backstory. Nowadays the crushing weight of the Expanded Universe canon spoon fed to us by the InterWebs does that for us, but back in the day it was all up to our imaginations. Case in point, these Royal Guards remain one of my favorite troop designs in the whole series. I find these guys to be intimidating and badass. But that’s all based on mystery spiced by my own whimsical extrapolations, because the Royal Guards were merely window dressing in Return of the Jedi. Or more accurately, elevator dressing? Either way, I’ve owned every version of these guys that Kenner or Hasbro have put out and I’ve loved all of them. Suffice it to say, I was eager to see how the Black Series version would turn out.
Softgoods! The Black Series hasn’t always taken advantage of this scale to incorporate softgoods, but I think it was a no-brainer for this figure. The Royal Guard’s majestic cloak is fashioned from a nice soft and brilliant red fabric that falls pretty naturally around the figure. It can bunch up at the shoulders a bit, but all in all I think it looks really good. The only sculpted plastic this guy is showing is his very distinctive helmet. The sculpt for the helmet matches all of the sexy and sinister curves I remember, but the paint used for the black visor could have been a little crisper. It doesn’t even fill out the entire area that’s supposed to be black. Come on, Hasbro. There is literally one paint application showing on this entire figure and it turned out a bit dodgy. Eh, the truth is it’s only really noticeable if you get in close, so let’s give him a pass. As for what’s under the cloak? My guess would be they cheaped out with just a blank buck, but let’s take a peek…
OH MY GOD!!! You’re just going to have to believe me on this one, folks. I haven’t read or watched any reviews of this guy, so taking him out of the box and lifting his robe is the first time I saw what was going on under there and I am in awe. Not only does he have a fully detailed and sculpted suit of armor under there, it is absolutely beautiful in both its design and execution. It’s not quite the Imperial Guard from the Shadow of the Empire, but it’s close enough for me to use as a stand in. Hell, we’re going to have to get rid of those robes and take a closer look at his business!
Removing the robes is as simple as popping off the head and popping it back on and I’m actually surprised that the figure looks as good as it does with the robes off and the regular head reattached. I will, however, throw it out there that Hasbro should have included the Shadows of the Empire Imperial Guard helmet as a swap out because that would have been amazing. But I digress. Getting the cloak off this guy is like I’m seeing him for the first time, and I really dig what I see. He’s wearing a sculpted dark maroon suit with bright crimson armor pieces sculpted onto it. Little touches include the painted buckles on the straps holding on his shin guards, pouches on his belt, and a holster for a pistol that I did not even realize these guys carried. I really am impressed and yet also supremely disappointed that we never got to see these guys cast off their robes and show off their fighting skills like the Praetorian Guards in The Last Jedi did.
The Royal Guard comes with two accessories, the blaster pistol and a force pike. The pistol looks identical to the one carried by the Biker Scouts, but I don’t have that one handy to do a comparison. Either way, the Guard’s left hand is sculpted to hold it pretty well, but I had no luck getting it into his right hand. The cross draw required for the holster on the right hip isn’t unheard of, but as we’ll see in a bit, the cloak makes wielding the pistol in that hand a little problematic. The force pike, on the other hand, is a new weapon and Hasbro put a lot of effort into the sculpt. I’ve only really seen this accessory before in the 3 3/4-inch scale, so it’s cool to see it fleshed out with some of the finer details.
The articulation includes rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, have swivels in the thighs, double hinges in the knees, and hinges and rockers in the ankles. There’s a ball joint in the chest and the neck is ball jointed, but the helmet doesn’t offer a whole lot of range of motion. So my big question is, how well does the articulation and accessories work with the cloaked figure. Let’s put it back on and find out.
Most of the time, these guys tend to stand there with their force pike in hand and flank The Emperor. Let’s face it, how many times do you think some random Joe takes a pop at Papa Palpatine? Probably not often. So I tend to think of these guards as mostly for show. Anyway, thanks to a slit running down the right side of the robes, the right arm is accessible for him to hold the weapon in his most iconic of poses. I’m not sure why they went with the pointy index finger in his right hand, but maybe it was so you can get a bit of an angle on the way he’s holding the weapon.
Of course, if you want him to start busting out the action poses, it helps to roll the cloak back over his shoulders. I didn’t think this would work that well, but it’s actually not too bad. However, the left arm with the gun can still be a little awkward. If I can grab another one of these, I may try out slitting the robe up the left side as well to offer a little more easy access. I’d like to think that the Royal Guards just drop the cloaks when the occasion for combat presents itself.
I started out by saying this was a figure that has no real place on my display shelves, and that’s kind of true. I skipped the Black Series Emperor, because I honestly didn’t think it looked very good and now I’ve got an Emperor’s Guard with no Emperor for him to guard. It’s something that I can’t easily remedy because Palpy is now going for a shit ton of Republic Credits on the secondary market, and if I wasn’t going to buy him for $20, I sure as hell am not going to pay more. That having been said, this figure has both surprised and delighted me by all the work Hasbro did on the body under those robes. I expected him to look good standing there at attention with his force pike, but not much else. Who would have thought that a simple figure like this could have just possibly rekindled my love for this line.