Star Wars Black (ESB 40th Anniversary): Rebel Hoth Soldier by Hasbro

Hasbro has rolled out some vintage style carded packaging for the 6-inch Black Series to celebrate Empire Strikes Back‘s 40th Anniverary. Most of these seem to be repacks, and I’m not double-dipping on any of these just because of the packages, but I sure as hell wanted some Hoth Troopers. Since I never find these on the shelves, and since I really don’t care about the package, I went ahead and pre-ordered this one on Amazon a while back, accepting the fact that it would arrive a crumpled mess, and I’ll just have to try my luck at the pegs to pick up a couple more.

All I see are horror story pictures on Twitter of collectors receiving these all mangled. Imagine my surprise when mine showed up in a simple padded mailer and yet still managed to arrive unscathed. Now don’t get me wrong, I do really dig the presentation here. The card looks great! It tickles me in the nostalgia zone and I like the foil 40th Anniversary box at the top. And as wonderful as it all looks, the figure looks every bit as good! But I got no room for keeping 6-inch carded figures, and this ain’t collector friendly, so let’s rip this baby open and have a look.

These fellas sure have gotten a lot more screen accurate since the Kenner days! Indeed, I’m beside myself with how much detail Hasbro packed into this guy. The arms and legs feature that familiar quilting that turns up on pretty much all of the Hoth Rebels, and I dig the crisscrossing straps on his boots. He has a sculpted pouch on his right bicep, just under what I’m going to guess is a unit designation. He also has his comm panel sculpted into his left gauntlet so he can all back to Echo Base and report Wampa sightings! The vest and lower part of his tunic are cast in soft plastic and attached to the figure to give the costume some nice depth. Dress in layers, it’s cold outside! There’s a sculpted military-style belt with a pouch and six grenades sculpted into the front right side of the tunic, as well as his rank insignia on the left side of his chest. He also has a functional holster for his pistol, and the kerchief around his neck is removable, but it’s cold on Hoth so I can’t imagine why he would want to take it off.

The backpack is an impressive piece of kit. It has a sculpted covering with all the little buttons and stitch marks and exposed sections of the packs instruments, along with cables feeding out of them and an antenna. The pack is removable, it simply pegs in the figure’s back and there are also two clips coming off the sides of the vest that tab into slots in the pack. The pack also has a hidden compartment, which houses a second face plate, just like that first Destro figure back in the old GI JOE: Real American Hero line!

The figure is packaged with the clean shaven face that I’ve been showing all along. It looks like this was Hasbro’s attempt to reproduce the soldier depicted on the card, and it does a pretty good job of it. He does look really young to me, but then Hoth wouldn’t be the first battle that sent kids off to fight. I also like that he’s got some rosy cheeks because it’s so cold! The helmet has a quilted hood with a comm device sculpted onto the side, a plastic scarf flap hanging off the other, and a pair of goggles on elastic that can be worn up or over the eyes. I think the goggles look better worn up than they do on over the eyes.

Hasbro took a page from the Figma/Figuarts book when it comes to the face plate. Pop off the top of the head and you can peel off one face and replace it with the other. The alternate face is bearded and looks more age appropriate for the horrors of ice trench warfare. I actually like this portrait a lot and until I can get a second one of these guys, I’m going to go with this face for regular display.

There are no surprises to be had in the articulation. The arms have rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, have swivels in the thighs, and double hinges in the knees. The ankles have hinges and lateral rockers. There’s a ball joint hidden up under the vest, and the neck is ball jointed. The lower part of the tunic does get in the way of leg movement a bit, but the sides are slit and that helps a lot. I still prefer the double-hinged elbows and rotating hinges of Hasbro’s Marvel Legends line, especially when dealing with rifles, but what we get here certainly isn’t bad.

The Rebel Soldier comes with two weapons, a standard DH-17 pistol and an A280 rifle. Both of these are highly detailed sculpts and I even took a moment to admire how well the rifle matches the one seen in the film. My only nitpicks here are that they didn’t spare a little silver paint for the muzzle of the pistol and I would have liked a sling on the rifle. Hell, even the rifles that came with some of the Kenner Hoth figures had slings! The Rebel’s right hand is sculpted with a trigger finger that works well with both weapons and he can cradle the rifle in his off hand. The pistol fits very well in the holster.

I know I say this a lot, but I’m constantly teetering on whether or not to keep collecting this line. Too often, it feels like Hasbro is just phoning in the figures and not taking advantage of the larger scale. But then, just when I’m at that precipice and ready to jump off, Hasbro produces an amazing figure like this one. It’s kind of sad that they have released more than a few main characters in the line that don’t have the care and attention to detail that this nameless soldier does, but that doesn’t make me appreciate him any less. Quite the contrary. It’s releases like this that realize the potential of the line’s scale and status as “collector” figures, and keep me hanging around a little while longer. Now hopefully he’ll get a regular boxed release so I can get a couple more!

Star Wars Black: Deluxe Imperial Probe Droid by Hasbro

If anyone was expecting me to do a Star Wars review on May the 4th, well then you shouldn’t underestimate the power of Marvel Monday. Bump Marvel Legends? In its moment of triumph? I think you overestimate my backlog! That was just never going to happen. I was actually trying to push for getting today’s review out on Wednesday, but this has been one those hell weeks at work, so it turned out to be a two-review kind of week. Plus, and to be quite honest, it’s been so hard for me to summon up a lot of enthusiasm for Star Wars these days. I’m not throwing in the towel, I’m still buying some of the toys, but after The Last Jedi and Rise of Skywalker I think I need to give it some time to replenish my batteries. I think that’s best illustrated in the lack of Star Wars content lately, and the giant stack of unopened Black Series figures in the Toy Closet. Maybe I need to get to work on some Star Wars Hot Toys reviews to get my excitement up again. Either way, the Black Series Deluxe Probe Droid wound up on my doorstep this week and I decided I would push it to the head of the line.

This is indeed one of the line’s Deluxe offerings, which means it comes in a bigger box and retails for around thirty bucks. Hasbro is tying this release into their 40th Anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, and I have to say I love the addition of the old school logo on the box. Otherwise, the packaging gives you a good look at the figure and it is collector friendly. And that’s good, because I may actually keep this box. In addition to the figure, you get a stand which consists of a Hoth-style base and a clear plastic rod.

Free of his packaging and on the prowl, the Probe Droid looks quite spectacular! It’s crazy to think how iconic this droid has become considering what a tiny part he played in the film. He flew around on Hoth a bit, he fired off some shots at our heroes, and then he got toasted. He wasn’t very consequential and yet he’s become something of a droid star. It’s hard for me to come up with something equivalent in the new films, but I guess we’d have to wait a few decades to see whether any of the new designs take root and enjoy this kind of a legacy. And when I say we, I mean y’all because I don’t know that I have a few decades left in me. Nonetheless, over the decades I’ve had at least a couple of figures of this droid, most notably the original Kenner release that came in the Turret and Probot playset and the Power of the Force 2 version. Both were great figures. I can remember playing with the Kenner version long after the family dog had chewed it’s arms down to misshapen nubs. I used to just pretend he got mauled by the Wampa and barely escaped with his central processor intact.

I think it’s safe to say that Hasbro outdid themselves with this sculpt. There are plenty of panel lines, compartments, tanks, and little bits and bobs incorporated into the droid’s body. Look closely and you can see tiny sculpted rivets and pock marks, which suggest that these guys are collected by their Imperial masters, or they return to base on their own after their hunt so they could be re-used over and over again. I especially love all the spider-like eyes that litter it’s head. These shiny black soul-less orbs come in all shapes and sizes and are obviously designed to gather all sorts of information in a 360-degree spread as the droid makes its way across its hunting grounds. Between the head and body there’s a boxy blaster, which can swivel left and right to target interlopers. The dual antenna on the head can also raise and lower, although they don’t retract as far as they did in the film.

I wasn’t expecting a lot in terms of paint on this fellow. The droid is mostly just a gun-metal gray achieved through the color of the plastic. Still, Hasbro surprised me with some nice flourishes of paint. Most notably there’s a copious amount of silver dry brushing to give the droid a weathered look. Scuffs are scattered about the body and head and I feel it’s not overdone. There’s also some red paint here and there to pick out some of the panels and tubes on the body. Finally, there’s a fair amount of brown, which looks like it could be a combination of rust and dirty oil smeared in patches here and there. I think Hasbro could have gotten away with a much flatter deco on this toy, but they stepped up and did some fine work. It has a real used look to it.

In addition to the rotating head, the five mismatched legs feature quite a bit of articulation. Each leg can rotate where it connects to the body and some have as many as five hinges to them. These hinges are pretty sturdy and keep the legs in place no matter what configuration I put them in. The sculpts are good with sculpted hydraulics and an array of different types of claws and utensils, probably designed to take samplings of minerals, pick through ship wreckage, or whatever the droid happens to be investigating. The full articulation in the legs allow for a seemingly endless variety of display options for posing. I particularly like how they can be swept back as if he’s traveling quickly.

The figure stand is both simple and elegant. It’s just a clear rod and a base, but it works perfectly. I certainly don’t need anything more complicated than that. Although if I am going to gripe a bit. I think for the $30 price tag, Hasbro should have put a sound chip in this guy. The probe transmissions are so iconic and sound so cool, it’s a shame they couldn’t have made that work. I mean, I’ve had novelty key chains with sound effects that cost me next to nothing.

It’s funny. I began this review lamenting my bad case of Star Wars fatigue, but clearly it can’t be all that bad if I can drone on with affection over a Probe Droid that had about five minutes of screen time. But then this fellow is just another great example of how some of those robot and ship designs captured my imagination as a child. Not to mention why I’m still spending money on this shit when I’m pushing fifty. Either way, I think Hasbro did a fine job with this one and I’ll happily put him on the Hoth corner of my Black Series shelves. He looks great, he’s got a lot of articulation, and he’s just loads of fun to play with. I was actually going to wait on this one for a sale, and I did manage to grab it at a bit of a discount, but ultimately I’m pleased I didn’t wait.

Star Wars Black (The Mandalorian): Heavy Infantry Mandalorian by Hasbro

Six episodes in and I am still enjoying the hell out of The Mandalorian. And I’m overjoyed that Hasbro has released at least a few action figures from these episodes. Sure, there’s opportunity for plenty more. Sure, I’m hoping Hasbro goes full guns on this series. But whatever happens, I’m still plenty happy with what we’ve got. Today I’m having a look at the Heavy Infantry Mandalorian who turned up in Chapter 3: The Sin.

I’ve got nothing new to say about the packaging, other than this box is a little wider than most Black Series packages, and that’s to accommodate the extra gear. And in keeping with tradition, we don’t know a hell of a lot about this character. Well, other than he seems like a real prick at first. He even picks a fight with the titular Mando, to the point where the vibro-blades come out, all in what seems to be mostly a case of misplaced jealousy. But in the end Mr Heavy proves that Mandalorians stick together when he jumps in to support Mando as he breaks bad with his employers.

What we do know is that this guy is an absolute bruiser and that his armor and gear (at least to me) step just a little bit closer to Boba Fett’s familiar armor. I think a lot of that comes from the helmet and the forearm armor. Unlike most of the other Mandos, this guy is armored up from head to toe with the sculpted under-suit really only showing in his upper thighs and his elbows. This guy has obviously proven himself, because his armor is so complete and in relatively good condition. Not to mention that with his heft, it must have taken a lot of that precious besker steel to outfit him. The armor itself is pretty smooth and simple with a mostly blue deco. The exception is in the brown kneepads, lower right leg, and left leg cuff. It gives him that slightly ragtag look, like maybe those are the last pieces he needs to upgrade when he gets his next big score. The forearms feature some nice detailing in the way of panel lines and gizmos, and he’s got a hefty belt with a number of brown pouches, each with painted snaps. The armor is rounded out with some sparing and effective silver brushed weathering, some of which is emphasized in the sculpt with pockmarks and dents. This is a great looking figure!

Of course, one of the big draws in this design is the weaponized jetpack, which looks passingly familiar to the one worn by Boba. This one lacks the central missile and seems to have beefier thrusters, but makes up for it by powering two pretty impressive weapons via two cables. The heavier segmented cable coming out of the right side attaches to his big gatling laser, somewhat reminiscent to the one worn by Baze Malbus in Rogue One. And I’ll come back to the gatling laser in a bit.

The smaller gray cable attaches to the weapon mounted on the left gauntlet. I haven’t re-watched the episode recently, but I don’t remember him actually using the gauntlet weapon, so I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be. Maybe just a big-ass flame thrower? That would be cool.

The helmet also strikes me as more reminiscent of Boba’s than the one worn by The Mando, but I think that has to do with the pock marks and the range finder. The helmet is mostly blue to match the rest of the armor, and features lighter blue paint apps for the “cheeks” and more of that silver brushed weathering. The range finder is on the left side of the helmet, is sculpted in place, and a lot beefier than the one on Boba’s helmet. I dig it!

And how about that big-ass blaster! That’s how you make a statement! This beast of a weapon looks like the kind of thing that would be mounted on a tripod, but they don’t call this guy Heavy Infantry Mando for nothing. He’s up to the task to wield this thing like a champ. The weapon can be pegged into the side of the jetpack for storage, and I’m impressed that even with all this gear on his back, the figure has no problems standing up. The giant death stick is just packed with sculpted detail, has some beautiful silver and blue paintwork near the muzzle and barrels, and even features a swiveling hand grip on the top allowing him to hold the weapon perfectly in a number of firing positions.

 

Oh boy, do I love this figure! Naturally, it would be great to get figures of all the Mandalorians in the series, but if we only get one, I’m glad they went with this one. He’s an absolutely gorgeous figure from sculpt to paint, and his giant weapon and near perfect balance makes him loads of fun to pose and play with. And I’m kind of glad that he didn’t turn out to be a total asshole by the end of the episode. Will we be seeing more of him? Well, we don’t have many episodes left, so who knows? I can’t imagine how the writers will spend the last two episodes they have wrapping things up, but I’m excited to find out.

Star Wars Black (The Mandalorian): Cara Dune by Hasbro

We’re four episodes (five if you count today!) into The Mandalorian, the new Star Wars series on Disney+, and I’m happy to say that I’m enjoying it a whole hell of a lot. It’s refreshingly simple, well crafted, and the backdrop is rich with the Star Wars Universe. I already reviewed the Black Series figure of the titular character, and now I’m back to check out Cara Dune, a character that made her appearance the very same week that her figure was hitting my doorstep. Now that’s some pin-point timing on your distribution, Hasbro! Too bad you ain’t got none of them Baby Yoda’s to sell. What? Mattel is making that? WHAT?? It won’t be out until later next year? What the hell is going on over there, Disney? Don’t you and Hasbro like money anymore???

Setting aside the lack of Yoda Babies, we are introduced to Cara Dune in Chapter Four: Sanctuary, which plays out like an old episode of The A-Team. Or that episode of Enterprise where they have to defend a colony against Klingon raiders by teaching the locals how to fight. Here, The Mandalorian and his new associate, Cara, must defend a village from raiders who also happen to have a pet droidified AT-ST and they need to improvise. Despite an eye-rolling cliche clip of the villagers getting drilled with the use of quarter-staffs, it was most enjoyable and the script does a nice job fleshing out Cara’s character and actress, Gina Carano does an equally fine job bringing her to life. I’m presume we’ll be seeing more of her, but instead of speculating, let’s have a look at her figure.

As a former Rebel fighter and all around roughian, Cara comes sporting a set of armored fatigues that look right at home in the Star Wars Universe. The ensemble consists of a chest-plate, shoulder armor, grieves on her forearms, and a single right knee-guard, because to hell with the left knee, right? The outfit is all part of the body sculpt, which makes some nice use of texture for the chest and back pieces, as well as the outer portions of the legs. She’s got a couple of sculpted gear belts, one of which supports a working holster on her right hip. Her boots have sculpted wraps leading up to her knees as well as some code cylinders strapped to her lower right leg. The blue, gray, and black deco is certainly distinctive, and there are plenty of silver paint hits to the buckles and gear. There’s also some very nice weathering on her armor, which looks good and is used sparingly. Finally, a tattooed segmented band encircles her right bicep. The sculpt and paint here are both excellent, and I also dig how the figure’s build matches Carno’s powerful stature.

And speaking of matching, the portrait here is a pretty solid likeness for the actress, but I don’t think it’s among their best. I think it’s very good from certain angles, but from others it loses me a little. But hey, if we’re grading the Black Series on a curve because of some truly lackluster portraits, I think this one still ranks in around a B+. Not as good as what we’re seeing from Hasbro’s Marvel Cinematic Universe figures from down the hall, but I’m not going to quibble about it. The hair is particularly well done, sculpted separately from the head and covering part of her right face, while strands fall down the other side between her cheek and ear.

I’ve already mentioned the functional holster, which holds her blaster pistol, and includes a retaining strap that fastens with a peg and hole. We got to see this weapon up close and personal in her battle with The Mando and it features a lot of great detail in the sculpt as well as painted grips. The pistol strikes me as a little demure for her, but nevertheless it appears faithful to its on screen counterpart. She can hold it in either hand, but it works best in the right hand with the hooked trigger finger fitting through the trigger guard.

Next up, she comes with a little combat knife, which can be held in either hand. I struggled for a bit to figure out where this goes on her outfit before spotting a little slot on the side of her left boot. It’s a simple accessory, but still quite welcome.

And finally, Cara comes with a weapon that seems more suited to her stature and that’s this heavy blaster rifle. This big boom-stick features a cool over-under double-barrel design, not to mention two big drums of whatever passes for ammo in the Star Wars Universe these days. Like the pistol, there’s some excellent detail work on this weapon, brown paint on the grip and stock, and it includes a grab bar on the top so that Cara can wield it with both hands.

It also includes a shoulder strap, so she can carry it on her back. Nice!

At a time when I’ve been considering slowing down on the 6-inch Black Series, Cara comes along and rekindles my interest in this line. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that’s the case for The Mandalorian in general. I don’t see myself buying a lot of figures from Rise of Skywalker, because I just don’t think I’m going to end up liking the film all that much. Hopefully time will prove me wrong. But The Mandalorian is another story entirely and I sincerely hope that Hasbro starts pumping out figures from this line at a quick pace. There’s already quite a few that I’d like to see from the first handful of episodes.

Star Wars Black (Solo): Han Solo (Mimban) and Chewbacca by Hasbro

So, the other night I re-watched Solo on Disney+ and about half way through it I got up, dug out all the Black Series figures from the movie that were on my Pile of Shame© and had a hell of a time ripping them open while finishing the movie. And since I did that, I thought I’d go ahead and start reviewing them in pairs. I’ve already looked at quite a few figures from the film, and today I’m pressing on with Han Solo in his Mudtrooper uniform and his new found friend, Chewbacca.

Of all the Star Wars films, both good and bad, Solo feels like the one that just kind of came and went. The lead up to its release seemed to be dominated by talks of messy production and re-shoots, but once it hit the theaters I don’t recall hearing much about it, other than it was a disappointment for Disney at the Box Office and it resulted in them tabling any future plans for the Star Wars Story films. Me? I enjoyed it quite a bit in the theater and I’ve probably watched it two or three more times since it hit Blu-Ray. And now that I find myself casually viewing it again on Disney’s streaming service, I have to say that it’s held up just fine each time and other than a certain shoe-horned cameo at the end, I’ve got no complaints. Let’s start out by looking at Han.

Serving with the 224th Imperial Armored Division, Corporal Han Solo in his Imperial Mudtrooper outfit is a figure that I was anxious to get my hands on. I loved the whole sequence in the film and I really dig this particular uniform. It’s a nice blend of familiar Imperial fashion call-outs with some new stuff thrown in, and Hasbro put an exceptional amount of work into making this figure something special. Here it is stripped down to the basics with the familiar cuirass previously seen worn by the AT-AT Commanders. The backside of the armor features a sculpted backpack sort of thing with some detailed panels. The cuirass is not removable and is sculpted over what looks like a fairly typical Imperial Officer’s uniform tunic, but with added shoulder armor and bicep armor, with the right bicep painted red. The high boots feature a liberal dusting of what is probably supposed to be mud, but it actually looks like it would work well for snow or ash. In addition to the dirtied up boots, there’s some absolutely lovely weathering applied to the cuirass. Even if this was all there was to the figure, I’d have been happy, but there’s plenty of gear to add on to him. But before getting to that…

Let’s talk about the portrait! Hasbro has had some troubles in the past getting Harrison Ford’s likeness as Solo quite right, but I Think they’ve had a lot more luck with Alden Ehrenreich. Their first figure from the film looked great, and I think the likeness on this one is another direct hit. The hair and contours of the face are right on the money, as are pretty much all the facial features. And the printing used for the face is also excellent. OK, let’s start loading him up!

The extra uniform pieces consist of a cape, a helmet, goggles, and a breather mask. The cape features some particularly great sculpting and weathering, and I like that it’s not too cumbersome, because even as it is, it seems like the most impractical thing to include on an infantry uniform. [OK, that was only true until I realized it’s probably a rain poncho and not a cape.] It’s designed to tab into two notches on his shoulders, but mine doesn’t like to do that, which isn’t a big problem because it stays on just fine by hugging his shoulders.

The helmet fits perfectly and includes a chin-strap. The breather mask has two partially sculpted straps that hold it on simply by friction and the tubes run behind the head and plug into the holes on the top of the backpack. Finally, the goggles can be worn up on the helmet or down over the eyes. One of my frequent complaints about the Black Series is that it doesn’t often make use of the larger scale, but here’s a figure that really does. I’m sure all of this could have been done in the smaller 3 3/4-inch scale, but I don’t think it could have been quite as well executed as it is here. I mean, it would have been much easier to just sculpt the goggles, helmet, and mask all as one piece, but I’m happy to see Hasbro rose to the challenge here.

The final accessory in the box is Han’s E-10 blaster rifle. It’s a nice change-up form the usual Imperial small arms and features some great detail in the sculpt. The forearm grip is even folded down so it can be held in both hands. And since I’m looking at two figures today, I’m just going to skip the usual run-down of articulation. There’s nothing new here, and I’ll just say how I wish Black Series made use of double-hinged elbows like Marvel Legends does. The rotating hinges are OK, but I would really like a better range of motion in those elbows. Moving on to Chewbacca…

I actually don’t have a whole heck of a lot to say about Chewie here. I was actually going to pass on this figure, but I found it on sale and I decided I needed him to stand beside young Han Solo. It seems to borrow the same body sculpt as the original Black Series Chewie, but with a very different paint job. Gone is the more uniform brown and in its place is a mix of dark brown and light tan. Unfortunately, I don’t think the new paint does the sculpt any favors. It looks very basic and the radical differences in color shades makes this look more like an animated version of Chewie to me. Maybe a wash would have helped. Of course, Chewie’s more familiar bandoleer strap is replaced here with the Y-shaped baldric and satchel.

We do get an entirely new head sculpt, which I think is a fairly solid and I dig the goggles, which have an elastic strap and can be worn up on his forehead or down over his eyes. Once again, I’m going to take the lazy way out and not run down the articulation. I’ll just refer you to my review of the original Black Series Chewbacca review from many years ago.

Chewbacca comes with the blaster rifle he wielded in the film. I’m not sure what this one is called, but it’s a formidable weapon for a formidable Wookie. The sculpt features loads of detail, the forearm grip is painted brown, and there’s a small side grip that’s actually articulated and can fold in or out. It’s a great looking gun, I just wish they had re-sculpted Chewie’s left hand so that he could hold it by the forearm.

In the end I couldn’t be happier with the way Mimban Han turned out. It’s rare that I can give the Black Series the nod for going above and beyond, but Hasbro did just that on this figure. All the removable gear makes him lots of fun, and he’s just a great looking figure. Chewie isn’t quite as big a success story. There’s a lot of recycling here and the paint just doesn’t do the sculpt any favors. It’s not a terrible figure by any means, and I’m ultimately glad I got him, but I’m also glad I didn’t have to pay full price for him. And I have to say, it’s been fun going back and checking out figures from Solo. So much so that I may try to squeeze a couple more into the mix next week.

Star Wars Black: Deluxe Emperor Palpatine by Hasbro

The first time Hasbro released The Emperor as part of the 6-inch Black Series, I took a pass. I think I was on the outs with collecting Star Wars at the time. or maybe I had too many other things on my wish list that month, but for whatever reason I didn’t pick him up. It was a decision I learned to regret because he started going for a good amount of money on the second hand market, so when I finally decided I wanted him, I was shit out of luck. But to my surprise, this was a case where hesitancy ultimately paid off, and Hasbro released this new Palpatine figure with an extra pair of heads and his almighty throne. Truly, the Sith Lords had smiled upon me.

Submitted for your approval, the terrible mock up package used by Amazon as their official image. Mine arrived with the package smashed to smithereens, so I’m forced to use this one. You get the idea. The window box follows the usual deco for this series with a black box, red interior, and red right panel. You get some monochrome character art in the lower right hand corner, a multi-lingual blurb about the character on the back, and as usual everything is collector friendly. The only difference between this box and the regular releases is the size, as this one is thicker than normal to contain the throne piece. Also, this release is an Amazon Exclusive, so there’s no number on the right side panel.

And here’s Papa Palpy out of the box and overall I am very pleased with him. One of my unending gripes with the Black Series is Hasbro’s reluctance to use soft-goods when it’s called for. Hell, it took a do-over from The Mandalorian to give us a proper robe on a Jawa! Well, if there was ever a figure that needed soft-goods, Palpatine was it. The figure features sculpted robes covered with a black cloth skirt, and finally a hooded and sleeved robe on top of that. There’s a plastic sash around his waist and a plastic catch holding the robe together just under his neck. Does it look perfect? Nah, not really. But I am willing to grant some leeway because of how difficult it is to get tailored clothing to look right at this scale. Hell, even at the bigger one-sixth scale, it can be tough. But in this case, I think the robe falls about the figure quite naturally and the sleeves are tailored to give him the hanging wizard sleeve effect. I do find that it’s necessary to futz around with the cloth a bit to get it to look right, but that’s to be expected too.

The only area where the cloth gives me trouble is in the hood. The sides of the hood are supposed to fold out a bit on his shoulders, and the garment is tailored to make that happen, but they tend to hover a bit higher. Also, the fold on the left side tends to ride higher. It sometimes gives him a Sally Field Flying Nun look to him. That’s a reference to an old TV show, kids. It’s not a deal-breaker for me, and honestly, it may not be an issue on all figures. My guess is that a lot of these will have their own individual quirks, so your mileage may vary.

I’m not going to run down the articulation here, but it feels like the figure makes use of all the standard points. He is definitely a lot more agile than I need my Emperor figure to be. Seriously, in terms of posing him, he can do most anything, but all I need him to do is stand there looking haggard and menacing. Palpatine comes with his rustic black cane, which he can hold in his right hand, and his left hand is sculpted so as to be pointing. The cane feels a little short. I don’t remember The Emperor hunching over quite that much when walking. But I can live with it.

You get three different heads and all of them are spectacular sculpts. The figure comes out of the box with a neutral expression or, in The Emperor’s case, slightly dour. You also get a smiling face and an angry “Imma Gonna Force Zap You” face. All of these are excellent sculpts with some solid paint to back them up. Unfortunately, all the years of Robot Chicken have made it difficult for me to take The Emperor seriously. Especially when he’s pulling that smiling face.

Of course, the big draw of this set is the inclusion of his throne. It’s likely to get collectors to double-dip on the character, so how is it? Pretty damn good, actually. It’s solid and sturdy and features some great detail, particularly in the control panels on the arm rests. It’s a shame they couldn’t have included a cardboard backdrop showing the window behind him, but then I guess I’m asking for a lot.

The figure fits in the throne quite well. At first, I thought there wasn’t enough head clearance, but it looks like that was the case on the actual film prop. I think my only gripe here is that his feet don’t quite touch the floor when he’s sitting in it, and that looks a bit silly.

The last accessories in the box are a pair of Force lightening hands. I’m really glad, Hasbro went this route, rather than just give us blue energy tendrils to attach to his arms. It works very well and I think the effect looks great.

I pre-ordered this figure ages ago, and had completely forgotten that it was even coming. At close to $40, it was a bit of an indulgence, since I try to be finicky about how much I spend on my Black Series collecting these days. I’m at that point in collecting where space is running out and something’s got to give. Black Series is often close to hitting the chopping block, but then it releases a figure like this and I’m sold on it all over again. With that having been said, if some third-party out there wants to produce a display base for this set with the illustrated cardboard backdrop, I would probably pony up the cash for that.

Star Wars Black: The Mandalorian by Hasbro

This week was Triple Force Friday where Disney launched merchandise for the upcoming Rise of Skywalker film, as well as a Star Wars video game and TV series. Now, sadly I have almost zero interest in the upcoming movie, Yeah I’m at a weird crossroads with Star Wars. I’ve got a case of franchise fatigue, but buying the toys is a tough habit to break when I’ve been doing it all my life. Fortunately, there is still one spark that may re-kindle my love for this franchise, and that’s The Mandalorian series coming to Disney+ next month. And today I’m checking out the 6-inch Black Series version of the titular character.

It’s safe to say that I was completely blown away by The Mandalorian trailer. I was expecting something flat. stuffy, and dire like Game of Thrones with Star Wars characters. What we got was exciting, explosive, and downright cool. To me it looked more like a Star Wars movie than, well… the last Star Wars movie. If they can make the story and characters work, I think this thing is going to be hugely enjoyable. But all of that is still wrapped in mystery. Even the blurb on the back of this box doesn’t betray any of the main character’s secrets. So let’s open him up and check him out. I’ll note here that this figure was also released with a metallic paint job as a Target Exclusive, and I’ll also be taking a look at that one in the near future.

Yup, this is basically a show built around a guy in a cool-looking set of space armor, and Mando here definitely fits the bill. And while the similarities are certainly there, I was pleased at just how different this armor is from that of our friend Boba Fett. Mando’s ensemble looks more rustic and patchwork, and Hasbro did a beautiful job sculpting in all of those details. I am particularly pleased with the sense of depth here, and although nearly everything is just sculpted as part of the figure, it really does look like we’re getting layers of plate armor and belts worn on top of an underlying suit. For example, the mismatched upper leg plates actually protrude up and away from the hips as they cross those thigh swivels. That’s cool. There are sculpted straps over the halves on the lower right leg armor, and the strap of whatever those little canisters are is neatly painted.

The shoulder armor are separate pieces and cast in soft plastic to help the shoulder articulation along. The cross strap and pistol belt are also separately sculpted and worn by the figure, as is the cape, which hangs around his neck and on his right shoulder.

The head sculpt looks more similar to Jango’s than Boba’s, but maybe that’s just me. As many have pointed out, it’s missing the iconic range-finder, and I find this helmet to be more form fitting than Fett’s. It’s also sporting an all silver paint job, with some blemishes of dirt, which interestingly is at odds from what we’ve seen int he trailer where his helmet is clean and shiny. Of course, the T-shaped visor is painted black, further shrouding the man in mystery. While on the subject, all the paint on this figure is well done. From the silver on the buckles and clips, to the weathering on the armor plates.

The articulation here is fairly straightforward for a Black Series figure. I think the only big surprise for me was the lack of swivels in the biceps. Instead, Mando is sporting rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. The legs have rotating hinges in the hips, double-hinges in the knees, swivels in the thighs, and the ankles have both hinges and lateral rockers. There’s a ball joint hidden up under the torso, and the neck is ball jointed. Yup, he’s pretty fun to play around with, although he does seem to be a little back-heavy.

The Mandalorian comes with a pistol, which is not dissimilar to the one usually included with Boba Fett. This one strikes me as having more of a 19th Century American West quality to it, which suits the outlaw frontier flavor of the series trailer. The pistol fits nicely into the figure’s right hand and the trigger finger threads through the guard comfortably. It can also be kept in the holster on his right hip.

He also comes with his rifle, and I am both in love with, and very curious about, this distinctive weapon. It looks like a composite between an antique Moroccan firing piece, a Winchester, and a… tuning fork? Yeah, that last bit was immediately identified by fans as a homage to Boba Fett’s weapon in the Star Wars Holiday Special. It looks like it’s some kind of plug bayonet, but in reality, I’m thinking that the energy blast produced by the rifle is emitted from these prongs. Either way, I dig it, and Hasbro did a wonderful job on this little plastic version. The stock and furniture is painted brown, the receiver is gun metal gray, and the prongs are silver. It’s a lot of detail and color variation on an accessory in this scale. I also appreciate that the figure can hold it well and even assume a firing position, by drawing it up to his face.

There’s a tab on the side of the gun that looks like it’s intended to be a magazine, but it doubles as a tab that fits into a slot on his back, passing through a slot on his shoulder strap, so he can wear the rifle on his back. Now, I say “fits” but that may be pushing it. Mine barely goes in at all. I can make it work, but it doesn’t take much to knock it off.

If you’ve been around FFZ long enough, you may know that I love getting Star Wars figures of characters before they appear on the big screen. It’s a great way to first experience all the nuances of their look, and get familiar with them before seeing them in action. It also let’s me enjoy them as a blank slate for a little while. I fill my mind with all sorts of assumptions and imaginings of what they are going to be like, and it really brings back the magic of being a kid again. I’ll only have about a month left until more about this character is revealed, but in the meantime, he’s a very exciting figure to add to my collection.

Star Wars Black: Imperial Jumptrooper by Hasbro

Gamestop is not a company that I enjoy doing business with, and that’s a rant for another time. But even I have to get off my high horse for a $5 action figure clearance sale. Yes, even though I know full well that they’re going to take my order then cancel most of it later when they find they didn’t have enough inventory to fill it all. I’m convinced that it’s all just a big come-on to get you on the site to maybe buy a few things at full price. In this case, I ordered about ten figures, and four of the ten were cancelled with the excuse “Item not available.” And a 60% success rate is a lot better than I usually do at these sales. But still, it’s a pretty shitty way to run a business. One of the figures I ordered that actually got fulfilled was the Imperial Jumptrooper, so let’s check him out today!

This guy was supposedly a Gamestop Exclusive, although there’s no indication of that on the package. You can, however, tell it was exclusive to somewhere because there’s no number on the side panel. I had little hope of ever finding this guy in the store, since I try to avoid going in there, and when I do I find it to be pretty terribly stocked. Nonetheless, this wasn’t a figure that I wanted badly enough to go on their site and pay full price plus shipping. My last experience with the Jumptroopers was the 3 3/4-inch figures that were tied to the Force Unleashed game. Those were pretty cool. This one isn’t the same design, but rather it’s based on the look from Star Wars: Rebels. And I guess the older ones aren’t even official canon anymore, but screw that. I have proof it existed! You can’t take away my figures, Disney!!!

Unlike the previous Jumptrooper, this one features a heavy reuse of the regular Imperial Stormtrooper armor. Indeed, most of the body is just recycled from the Black Series Stormtrooper. The big differences include the elongated shoulder pauldrons, and the new helmet. This one also has unpainted lateral hinges in the ankles. Boo! I’m a big fan of the Black Series Stormtrooper, and most everything I dig about that figure can be said about this guy as well. The articulation is solid, albeit appropriately limited for a guy wearing armor. The sculpting is pretty convincing as pieces of armor over an underlying black bodysuit, at least it is for this scale, and the functional holster is a very welcome treat. The orange paint on the left pauldron adds a splash of color to the armor and includes an Imperial insignia stamped on it, as well as the right shoulder.

You can’t have a Jumptrooper without a jetpack, and to be honest, I find this one to be a little understated. I mean, in fairness I guess Boba Fett’s wasn’t that big either. This one has a tank on the top, which I presume is for oxygen, as it has two hoses leading from it and going into the helmet. The pack is mostly white and has minimalist detail, which I guess matches the design of the armor pretty well. The pack itself attaches to the figure simply by pegging into the back, and features a little red and black paint, including some scorch marks around the jet exhaust ports.

The new helmet instantly reminds me of some of the Imperial pilot helmets, like the TIE Pilot or the AT-AT Driver. It still retains a lot of the regular Stormtrooper helmet features, but here the eyes are a continuous visor, the breather tubes protrude from the front, and there’s a crest running up the top of the helmet. The side vents are neatly painted blue, and you get some gray and orange paint on the top. It’s a pretty cool variant that incorporates a number of different Imperial design tropes.

While he may be a specialist, the Jumptroooper still comes with the regular old E-11 Blaster. It’s an excellent sculpt, albeit the plastic is rather soft. Rather than just cast in black plastic, it has a bit of a gunmetal finish to it. He can hold it in his right hand, and it fits into the holster quite well. I don’t mind so much getting this weapon included, as it is the mainstay of the Imperial army, but I still feel like these elites should have been given some kind of special weapon as well.

There is a figure stand included, and this was a big disappointment, mainly because I expected it to be something it wasn’t. As a figure stand itself, it’s perfectly functional. The foot slips into it, and it does a decent job holding him up. I probably wouldn’t mind having a pack of these to prevent some of those action-figure-avalanches in my displays. But when I saw this in the package, I assumed it was going to be some kind of flight stand, with a second piece concealed at the bottom of the box. Obviously, that wasn’t the case and so it feels like a major missed opportunity here.

And as a jetpack trooper, this guy is a little underwhelming to play around with. The regular Stormtrooper armor makes him not terribly agile for those flying poses, which makes me think that maybe Jumptroopers should have more unique armor designed for them to maneuver in the air. Another big missed opportunity here is the lack of any jet blast effect parts to draw attention to that jetpack and really make him look like he’s blasting into action.

Does it sound like I’m down on this figure? Well, maybe. To be honest, I liked the design of the Force Unleashed Jumptrooper a lot better than this one, and I’m kind of sad to know that we’ll never get that one in the 6-inch Black Series. This figure is perfectly serviceable, but it also feels rather lazy. Sure, a lot of that has to do with the design from the show and it isn’t the figure’s fault, but there are also too many missed opportunities for extras. I suppose it’s a good Exclusive release, because I wouldn’t have felt left out if I was never able to get him. As a $5 clearance figure, I’m perfectly happy to have him, but ultimately I am coming away very underwhelmed by this guy.

Star Wars Black (Rebels): Ezra and Chopper by Hasbro

No, I’m not back to my regular schedule yet, but I am happy to be back with a second update this week. Progress! And I decided to do two figures today to make up for the fewer updates. While I still have a pretty big backlog of Star Wars figures to open and review, today I’m going with a pair of more recent acquisitions. It’s no secret that I’ve been a huge fan of the 6-inch Black Series Rebels figures and with the release of Ezra and Chopper, we’re getting ever so close to having a full set of The Ghost crew! Let’s take a look!

It’s the same old packaging! It would have been cool if they did a little something fresh for the Rebels figures, but then I don’t keep these boxes anyway, so do I really care? Nah! They are, however, collector friendly, so if you are in a mind to keep being able to take them out and return them to the box, well there’s nothing stopping you. You get the usual black box with red inserts, monochrome character art on the front, and multi-lingual bio on the back. I had to go online for these since the stores in my area have had the same DJ and Solo figures clogging their pegs forever. Let’s go ahead and start with Ezra.

I’m not usually a big fan of what passes for fashion in the Star Wars universe. A lot of the casual attire comes off to me as boring and flat. That’s not the case with Ezra here. He wears what appears to be a flight jumpsuit, with the lower left leg torn away above the knee, revealing a brown pants leg and piece of knee armor. The right lower leg is covered with a piece of white armor. He lacks the usual control box and straps commonly found on the flight suits, but he does have a waist belt with a holster and pouch, each of which secure to his legs with thigh straps. The outfit is rounded out by a pair of green, fingerless gloves, and his familiar vest with short sleeves and logo on the back. I think Hasbro did a fine job recreating all the little details here, both in terms of sculpt and paintwork. The suit has sculpted rumples, stitch lines and pocket, while the texturing on the jacket looks great. The yellow fringe could have been sharper. Or maybe it was applied intentionally rough to give it a weathered look. At least the logo on the back is nice and crisp.

The holster on his right hip is really just a hook with a flat flap for his lightsaber to rest against. It was a little tough to get it looped in there the first few times, but I got it to work eventually.

Of course, these figures are more realistic takes on the very stylized character designs from the show, and I’m always intrigued to see how they are going to turn out. I was a little worried about Ezra since he always struck me as having one of the odder looks in the series. There was something about his nose that looked really bizarre to me. Nonetheless, the portrait that Hasbro came up with here looks really good. The finish on the skin is a bit too waxy, making him look like he’s sweating, but as for the face sculpt, they definitely managed to make him easily recognizable while casting off the stylized look. The hair is sculpted as a separate piece to give it some depth and it falls around the face in a very convincing manner. It also features some nice purple highlights.

Of course, Ezra comes with his trusty lightsaber-blaster combo, which fits comfortably into either of his hands. I was not a big fan of this weapon early on in the series, I thought it was gimmicky, but I’ve grown to dig it quite a bit. This version looks good for what is a pretty small accessory. It even has multiple paint apps. Obviously, the lightsaber blade is removable, but it was really hard to get out the first time I tried. I was afraid to twist it and have the peg twist off of the blade so I just had to keep pulling on it until it finally gave way.

He also comes with his Imperial cadet helmet. It’s a great looking piece, exhibiting that lovely McQuarrie flavor, and fits over the figure’s head perfectly.The black and red paint apps are overall pretty sharp and crisp.

The articulation here is pretty standard stuff for a 6-inch Black Series figure. Ezra’s arms have rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. His legs are ball jointed at the hips, have swivels in the thighs, double-hinges in the knees, and the ankles have both hinges and lateral rockers. The torso has a ball joint under the chest, and the neck has both a hinge and a ball joint. Ezra is lots of fun to play around with and I am absolutely delighted with how he turned out. Let’s move on to Chopper!

Chopper would have been an easy figure to cheap-out on since he’s so small, but I’m happy to say that Hasbro went the opposite route and instead poured the love into this grumpy little rust-bucket. Indeed, the most surprising thing for me after getting Chopper out of the box is that he feels so substantial. A lot of that has to do with the crazy depth in some of the sculpted details. Besides the panel lining and bolts, you get some components that have been sculpted separately and inserted into the open compartments. I particularly love the yellow square plate that’s just bolted haphazardly on the front. Granted, there’s a lot more detail on the front of Chopper’s body than the back, but I think that’s more a characteristic of the droid’s design than it is a cop-out on Hasbro’s part. Even the tiny eyes and the radar dish are wonderfully realized. And the sculpt can’t take all the credit, because the paint features some nice rust-weathering, in addition to the orange and yellow bits.

Chopper includes a retractable third leg with the beefy little tire on it. There’s no gimmick connecting it to the head rotation, like we saw in the Black Series Astromechs. The column is just held in there by friction so you can rotate it as well as push it in and pull it out. Naturally the side legs rotate back to put him in an ambulatory position and he looks great doing it.

Chopper comes with a replacement left leg, which was a plot point in one of the episodes. It’s definitely a cool bonus and I haven’t decided which way I’m going to display him yet. I am leaning toward the different one because it gives Chopper even more of a junky asymmetrical look.

Of course, you can’t have Chopper without what I like to call his tantrum arms. These pull out from the sides of his head and are remarkably sturdy and easy to manipulate. He also has a utility arm that can fold out from the horizontal panel just under his head. These three appendages even feature some articulation at about the midpoints.

Chopper’s final surprise is a rocket jet, which can replace his third leg, and has a thrust effect part. And since he can’t stand with this piece in, Hasbro included a larger effect part that serves as a stand for when Chopper is in flight mode. Yup, Hasbro really went all out on this little guy. In many ways I think this figure is executed way better than their original Black Series R2-D2. He’s chunky and fun, and he has so many extras that I would have never expected. I think the best thing I can say about this little fella is that he feels like a decent value even at the regular twenty dollar price tag.

And so Hasbro continues to hit these Black Series Rebel figures out of the park. I’ve loved them all, and I think Ezra and Chopper may even be the best ones yet. Indeed, I think I’d be comfortable saying that I think these are some of the best Black Series figures, period! Surely, they can’t stop now and I’m hoping to see Zeb revealed in the next couple of days. He may be a little tougher to do in this realistic style, but I have faith that Hasbro will be able to pull it off. And hell, I’d also like to see them continue and give us some of the baddies from the series as well. And that’s a wrap for this week. Slowly but surely I’m trying to come back. I should be on track for Marvel Monday and then we’ll see how much time I have for the week’s content after that. Thanks for your patience!

Star Wars Black: Zuckuss by Hasbro

I’ve been waiting for it ever since the beginning of the Black Series, and now I’m almost there! Hasbro has finally delivered on a complete run of the bounty hunters from The Empire Strikes Back in the 6-inch scale. And while Admiral Piett may not need their scum, I absolutely do! I’m still hunting down Dengar, so in the meantime I might as well open up the penultimate bounty hunter release and Disney Store exclusive, Zuckuss. This guy arrived a bit before Christmas and got lost in the insipid miasma of the Holiday Season, and I’m more than ready to check him out!

I was pretty vocal in my anger when I saw that Hasbro agreed to license out Zuckuss as a retailer exclusive release. Making it tougher to get a complete set of these guys is just bad business. But as it turns out, Disney Store exclusives are pretty easy to get, and I don’t mean because I live just a few hours away from Disney World. Nope, I just hopped on the store website and had no problem getting him sent. They were even running a free shipping special for the holidays! If only Hasbro’s own site would make it this easy to buy their regular releases!

And damn, don’t he look cool! Zuckuss has been the subject of some truly memorable figures over the years. Even going back to his Kenner mail-away when he was called 4-LOM. I had no idea who he was when I first saw that commercial, but once he showed up, I knew it was five proofs-of-purchase well spent. His 4-inch outing in the Legacy Collection was pretty damn rad too, so I had high hopes for the 6-inch Black Series version, and I am not disappointed! Interestingly, there are a number of key design differences between the two figures, and from some cursory glances at pictures of the original costume, I think this is probably the more screen accurate, but I’m not about to jump down that rabbit hole of nitpickery. I will say that this figure looks great and features some nice improvements over his most recent 4-inch predecessor.

First off, the cloak goes back to full soft-goods like on the original Kenner figure. The Legacy figure had only a partial cloth cloak and sculpted sleeves. I also really like the material they used. It feels soft, but it looks like whatever that heavier and grimy material was that they used for the costume. The coloring makes it look appropriately greasy and the speckling looks pretty damn good too. The fit isn’t perfect. It does look a puffy around the arms, but I can’t say that’s not entirely inaccurate. His harness features sculpted pouches on the front and back as well as some light wash to give it a little wear and tear and make it look like leather. The biggest difference in design between him and the Legacy figure is the backpack. That one was silver and more rounded, this one is a dark metallic color and more squared off. It also has a little black hose running from it into the harness that looks like it could serve no possible purpose.

The head sculpt is right on the money. The wrinkled segments in his head look fantastic and contrast beautifully with the large silver compound eyes and the the breather piece covering his lower face. Indeed the silver paint they used is quite striking. The tubes coming off his head look like umbilical cords and I love the way the same lumpy organic stuff partially covers his breathing canister. I honestly have no idea what’s going on with Gand anatomy here, but it looks gross as hell, and I mean that in every good possible way.

As for articulation, it’s impossible to see what’s going on under that robe, as I’m not prepared to take it off, but what’s here feels pretty similar to what we usually see on the 6-inch Black Series figures. There are cuts in the lower cloak, so he can still get some pretty good range of leg movement too. I will note, however, that the left elbow on my figure is rather loose.

Zuckuss comes with one accessory, and that’s his very distinctive blaster carbine. I swear this was one of my favorite guns from the old Kenner line and even after all these years, I could still spot it out of a lineup. OK, maybe that’s not so impressive since I still have the Kenner figure on my shelf, but I do love the design so much and it’s cool to see it blown up to the 6-inch scale and even featuring some additional paint apps for the stock. They also sculpted his left hand as the gun holding hand, which lines up better with his iconic pose from the film. And despite him just having three big fingers, he can hold it surprisingly well.

For a guy who had a few seconds of screen time, it’s stupid how happy I am to have this figure. He’s always been among my favorite Star Wars alien designs and I’m doubly happy that my 4-LOM doesn’t have to be alone any longer. And speaking of which, after the wonderful job that Hasbro did with 4-LOM, it’s nice to see Zuckuss arrive with an equal attention to detail and execution. I think this is one of the rare exceptions where Hasbro made good use of the larger scale to deliver a truly better figure. Everything just came together beautifully. And as I put these figures together I realize more and more how badly IG-88 needs a re-do for this series, because he’s the only one in the bunch that falls shy of excellence.