Star Wars Black (Solo): Lando Calrissian by Hasbro

As promised, I’m back for a Solo double feature. This morning I checked out the Alden Ehrenreich version of young Han Solo and this afternoon I’m looking at the Donald Glover version of young Lando Calrissian. I’ve already proferred my general feelings about the movie in the previous review (I liked it!) so let’s just dive right in and talk about Lando…

There were a few times in the movie where I had to remind myself that Ehrenreich was Han Solo, but that was never the case for Glover as Lando. I don’t think I’ve seen a re-cast this effective since Karl Urban stepped into the role of Dr. McCoy in the 2009 Star Trek film. His mannerisms were a little more fleshed out, but they still felt right and I have to say Glover’s was the standout performance for me in this flick. So how did his action figure turn out?

Pretty damn good! For starters, Hasbro did a fine job recreating young Lando’s flashy duds. He comes out of the package wearing a scupted plastic black cape, which clips around his neck, rests on his shoulders, and hangs down just a bit past his waist. The interior of the cape is painted blue, which hints a bit at the cape he wore in Empire. Yes, apparently Lando has a bit of a cape fetish and the movie took a few opportunities to point it out and have fun with it. The trousers are unremarkable, and he has a serviceable pair of glossy black boots. He also has a gun belt with a silver buckle and an open holster for his gun.

The flashiest thing about the outfit is the bright yellow high-collared shirt, which features a sculpted chest-flap that’s partially folded down to reveal the black interior. I suspected this shirt might be a reuse of Han’s, because both have a similar flap designs, but they appear to each be unique. There’s also a black bar on the left side of Lando’s chest, which I thought was a flap for a pocket, but it just seems to be there for ornamental purposes. Contrasting this yellow shirt is his long black scarf with a diagonal white pattern. This is the kind of outfit that I would see at The Gap when I was a teenager, but wouldn’t have the chops to wear it to school.

I’m a tad mixed on the head sculpt. It’s certainly not bad, but I think it leans a bit more toward caricature than a straight on likeness. It might be because of the expression in the brow. Also, I didn’t notice it in the film, but the dent in Lando’s coif is channeling a little Moss from The IT Crowd. Like the Han figure, Lando features the halftone printing for the facial features, and it looks good around the eyes, but I think the beard and mustache could have been a bit sharper.

Lando comes with a rather unique blaster and holster. The holster is open with three bands to secure it. The top two bands are open on one end and the bottom is a loop to stick the barrel through. It can be a bit tricky to get it seated right without the barrel looking like it’s bent and sometimes when I remove the blaster from the holster, the barrel will stay in, because…

The muzzle is detachable. We’ve seen a few modular weapons in Rogue One and even in Solo, Han’s DL-44 Blaster gets broken down from a larger gun before Beckett tosses it to him. I’m just not sure if this particular blaster was meant to come apart, or if Hasbro just designed the accessory that way. And if its meant to come apart, what does the longer barrel do for it? Is it a silencer? Does it make it more accurate? Honestly, I can’t even remember seeing this gun in the film, but I assume it’s the one he was using while escaping a certain mining facility. Whatever the case, I like this gun a lot. The sculpted detail is excellent and the silver paint job makes it look very snappy.

I’ll note here that Lando’s articulation here is identical to what we saw with Han Solo and since I just reviewed that figure this morning, I’ll take the lazy way out and refer you back to that review. The cloak does impede shoulder articulation, although the right side is billowed out a bit so he can draw and raise his blaster with the cape on.

No doubt about it, young Lando is a worthy addition to my SWB Collection. It’s a great representation of Lando from the film and I’m really glad I picked him up. The only thing I’ll really nitpick is, I wish he came with some Sabacc cards. They could have sculpted a hand of cards as a single accessory, or even included an extra hand with the cards as part of the hand sculpt. Oh well. Before seeing the movie, I was pretty sure I was going to be happy with just getting Han, Lando, and the Range Trooper, but now that I”ve seen it I’m going to go ahead and pick up Q’ira to finish out this assortment. I’m also happy to see that Hasbro has shown off pictures of a second Solo-themed wave and I’ll be all over that like stink on a Wookie.

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Star Wars Black (Solo): Han Solo by Hasbro

Solo, the latest Star Wars Story hit theaters last week and I have to say that while I was pretty apprehensive about this one going in, I ended up enjoying it very much. There were a few things here and there that I felt were a little off, but overall the movie generated enough goodwill to allow me to overlook those things. Yeah, there was one cameo that I think was a terrible idea and left a bad taste in my mouth, but I won’t go into anything spoilery just yet. But ultimately, Solo (in conjunction with Rogue One) gave me a well-needed shot of assurance, that if the proper episode-whataver saga movies don’t right themselves, I’ll have these Star Wars Story films to fall back on for my Star Wars fix. In the meantime, I’m doubling up on Star Wars Black reviews today, with a look at Han Solo right now, and Lando Calrissian later on tonight.

And here we have my first Han Solo figure based on someone else playing the character. Let me confess, I didn’t know who Alden Ehrenreich was before he was cast in this film, and I was pretty dubious about how this was going to play out. My main concern was that I’d go through the movie and my brain wouldn’t allow this person to click as Han Solo. Thankfully, that fear wasn’t entirely realized and I think Ehrenreich did a pretty damn good job. Let’s face it, he had some huge space boots to fill, and if I was an actor, that kind of pressure would have killed me. In most scenes I think he sold it entirely, while there were a few (very few) times where I had to remind myself in the back of my head that this was indeed supposed to be Han Solo. But this film was a fun and gripping adventure and I was willing to go along for the ride, and I would not at all be opposed to seeing Ehrenreich take on the role again.

And I’m happy to report that Hasbro did a fantastic job on this figure! Young Han wore a number of outfits throughout the movie, from Imperal uniforms, to disguises, to a big furry jacket, but this figure is based on the one he settled on for most of it and clearly this is supposed to be iconic young Han Solo. The outfit has plenty of nods to the Han Solo that we all know and love. Indeed from the waist down, the similarities are striking. He has the familiar blue trousers with the red striping running up the tops, the high boots, and even his iconic gun belt with the large silver belt buckle, low slung holster with leg strap.

From the waist up, the costume mixes things up a bit. He still wears a jacket, like he did in Empire Strikes Back, but this one is a deep brown with black shoulder patches and a badge or some kind of ID shingle on his left side of his chest. Besides the usual sculpted rumples and wrinkles, Hasbro did some nice work with the sculpted seams and stitching, as well as a pleated effect on the flaps. The coloring on the jacket is also particularly nice, with a glossy finish making it look like well worn leather. Of course, the jacket is the usual soft plastic vest with sleeves sculpted on the arms, and it works quite well here. Under the jacket, Han wears a black t-shirt, with a sculpted flap on the front, somewhat similar to the one Luke wore in Return of the Jedi. 

It’s no secret that Hasbro hasn’t always been on point with their likenesses in the Black Series. Most would argue that the sculpts are there, but the basic paint the portraits get is where things go pear-shaped. Whatever the case, Hasbro did a bang-up job on this one. I think the likeness to Ehrenreich is pretty solid, and I particularly like the way they sculpted his coif. The facial detail uses the halftone printing that we’ve seen with many of the recent MCU figures in Hasbro’s own Marvel Legends line and the improvement is certainly there. It’s not perfect, but it’s come a long way from what Hasbro was doing for this line in the past. And don’t think it’s lost on me, the fact that this Han Solo figure features a much better likeness of Solo as played by Ehrenreich than any of the previous figures based on Harrison Ford.

As expected, Han features a functional holster on his gun belt and he comes with his trusty DL-44 Blaster, although I guess it’s a little too early to refer to it as his trusty weapon in this film since it was newly acquired. Nonetheless, the sculpt on this Broom-handled Space-Mauser is excellent and Hasbro spared a lick of brown paint for the handle.

While the movie may have had a few surprises about Han, the figure’s articulation comes out right where I expected. The arms feature rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, have double-hinged knees, swivels in the thighs and both hinges and lateral rockers in the ankles. The torso features a ball joint under the chest, and the neck is both hinged and ball jointed.

I haven’t always been terribly kind to the 6-inch Black Series, and it’s track record of hits and misses has really made me lose some of my enthusiasm for this line. Hell, almost all my SWB figures from The Last Jedi still sit unopened, but that could be blamed more on the film than the figures. But would I really be interested in buying a figure of Han Solo not played by Harrison Ford? Apparently, yes. Because, after seeing Solo the film, and getting this figure in hand, I’ve been pulled back in. Indeed, I was a little surprised at how excited I was to grab this figure off the peg, along with Lando and toss them into my cart. Both the movie and the figure turned out great, and I’m ready for more. So, come back later on tonight, and I’ll have a look at Lando Calrissian!

Star Wars Black (Solo): Range Trooper by Hasbro

It’s been something like two months since I last visited with the Star Wars 6-inch Black Series. I have a lot of the figures from The Last Jedi still waiting to be opened, but my third viewing of that flick really left me cold and not really in a mood to celebrate it with figures. Maybe one day when I’m really hurting for something to review, I’ll revisit those. In the meantime, the trailers have got me really excited to see Solo and I’ve started to pick up some of the Black Series figures that have preceded its coming. Let’s start off with the Range Trooper!

I confess, I tore this guy open in the car, so I had to go with Hasbro’s official packaged shot. And it’s worth noting that the figure in their promo shot is colored a bit differently than the actual figure we got, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Just who are the Range Troopers and what function do they serve in the Empire? Well, after a bit of speculation, we finally got to see a glimpse of these guys in action in the trailer, and it seems like they’ll be guarding an Imperial train on a planet called Vandor! It’s not a whole lot to go on, but it is significant as it explains a bit about the rather distinctive gear these guys are wearing. This is going to be one of those reviews where I’ll be sharing my thoughts on not only the figure itself, but the character design as well. So, let’s get started.

Straightaway, let me say that I really love this design and the figure carries it off brilliantly. I called him distinctive, and he is that, but he’s also a hodge-podge of ideas taken from a number of other Imperial troopers, and I don’t mean that as a bad thing. It’s only natural that Imperial armor should have a certain flavor to it, so it’s nice to see some of that connective tissue on display here. Pretty much all we know about Vandor right now is that it looks to have a rather cold and inhospitable climate, and I suppose we can assume that’s characteristic of the entire planet because… STAR WARS! Whatever the case, the Range Trooper is all bundled up, even more so than the Imperial Snowtroopers.

And this guy definitely has a Snowtrooper vibe about him. The chest armor is very similar to the Snowy, as is his backpack, albeit it’s a lot more recessed. The Range Trooper also has a similar kama, although it appears to be part of a larger and bulkier jacket that’s worn under the chest armor. The sculpting on the jacket is particularly well done and I like the look of the fringe that lines the edges. He also has a pair of rather large pouches flanking either side of his belt buckle. As I mentioned earlier, the promo shots make him look mostly white all over, but in hand the production figure has a couple of different colors going on. The helmet, the chest armor and the backpack are all pretty white, but the jacket has more of a yellow tinge to it and the boots and leg armor are gray. There’s also some pretty nice weathering, which consists of some scrapes and scratches on the armor.

The head sculpt definitely reminds me of some of the new helmet designs we saw in Rogue One, particularly the Scarif Troopers and the Hover Tank Pilot. And I guess that more or less fits the timeline, although Solo takes place a decade or so earlier. Like his chest armor, the helmet shows off some pretty nice weathering and I really dig the gold paint the used for the visor. Another thing I really dig is the furry collar he’s got on. It’s more of a yellowish white to match the coat, which presume it’s supposed to be part of. It looks very distinctive and I think this is some of the better use of softgoods I’ve seen in this line in a while.

And that brings us to the boots, and this guy has quite a pair of clodhoppers. These babies are heavily reinforced with a framework and even what looks like some kind of pressurized control tanks in the back. Having seen the trailer, we now know that one of the purposes these serve are to magnetize to the body of the train their guarding, so the troops can stay attached as it rotates on the track. I would presume these same boots could be used by Space Troopers who need to go out and walk on the hull of a spaceship. Whatever the case, these are some cool boots!

The articulation looks good on paper, but in practice, there’s a lot holding it back, at least from the waist down. The hips are ball jointed and there are what I believe to be rotating hinges in the knees and the ankles. But between the bulky boots, the sculpted plastic kama, and those big pouches, his legs just don’t have a lot of range of motion. He also has a pair of those thigh loops that we often see on the pilot figures. Above the waist he fares better, with rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists, all of which are relatively unhindered.

The Range Trooper comes with one weapon and it’s basically a variant of the E-11 Blaster.  It’s a much sturdier sculpt than we’ve seen in the past and not so prone to warping. On the downside, it doesn’t have any of the silver paint apps. Still, it’s a pretty cool gun. Unfortunately, there’s no holster or anything for him to put it when he’s not shooting.

In the end, the Range Trooper is a damn cool looking figure. I love the design and I think Hasbro did a great job with this figure. Yeah, the articulation is lacking a decent range of movement in some areas, but with how bundled up these fellas are, I don’t know how nimble they would be anyway. You’ve just got to love this time, when you’re getting Star Wars figures from a movie you haven’t seen yet, and it’s still all about speculation. You work up ideas about what the characters are going to be like, and whether they’re going to be major players or just bit parts. From the looks of the trailer, we will most definitely get to see the Range Troopers in action, and I hope they make a good account of themselves, because I want to pick up a few more of these guys.

Star Wars Black: Imperial AT-ST and Driver (Walmart Exclusive) by Hasbro

It’s hard to believe that it was five years ago that I reviewed the Vintage Collection AT-ST from Hasbro. FIVE YEARS AGO!?! While that toy had a number of good points, like the expanded driver cabin, I came away without being terribly impressed with it, mainly because it didn’t stand on its own very well at all, and the deco leaved something to be desired. When Hasbro re-released it as a Walmart Exclusive as part of the Star Wars Black Series, it was an easy pass because of the crazy price. I seem to recall they were asking sixty dollars for this thing! But when it later hit a certain online toy e-tailer for $25, well I couldn’t resist giving it another go. Oh, and keep in mind, while I’m referring back to the Vintage Collection release a lot, this toy first saw release way back in 2009 as part of the Legacy Collection.

It’s hard to beat the Vintage Collection packaging of the K-Mart Exclusive AT-ST, and this one doesn’t even try. It comes in a window box, so you do get a good look at the toy itself, but the minimalist black and red Black Series deco does nothing for me. There’s some monochrome art on the front and the cardboard behind the tray has some faint background scenes, but it just feels like lazy package design. Thanks to the high price point, these must have been a retail disaster for Walmart. They even had an entire endcap of them at my local Wally World, and that place almost never has any Hasbro Exclusives. They were on clearance too, but nowhere near as low as the price I got mine for. Unlike the VC version, there’s no assembly required here and the toy comes right out of the box and ready to go. I rarely ever start out reviews with comparisons, but lets just go for it.

Here they are side by side, with the new Black Series version on the left and good old Shitty-feet from the Vintage Collection on the right. Does that nickname refer to the fact that it can’t stand on his own or the fact that it actually looks like it’s been standing in feces? You decide, there is no wrong answer. I had planned to take more pictures for comparison, but I literally could not get the VC version to stand for more than a couple shots before getting really frustrated and tossing it aside. They are identical molds as far as I can tell and the only real differences are in the decos. The new one is cast in a much paler gray plastic and has what looks like a sandy spray on its feet, legs, and head. There’s also no battle damage on the SWB version, and it has a completely black butt.

Which deco do I like better? Well, it can’t be that easy can it? To be honest, I prefer the darker gray plastic of the earlier release, and I do like the scorch mark on the head. The old deco would have been a slam dunk as the favorite if it weren’t for the heavy mud on the feet, which I think looks really bad. The paler gray plastic on the new one looks a little cheaper and the weathering spray isn’t all that convincing to me. In the end, neither is perfect and ideally, I would have liked a compromise between the two. Each AT-ST definitely looks like its been hanging out in a different environment, so the VC release could clearly be from Endor and the newer release looks like it has seen action on a barren planet. Maybe even Jedha? That’s kind of cool. On the other hand, if you plan on picking this one up to beef up your Imperial ranks, I don’t think they display well together because of the obvious differences in weathering. OK, so let’s get to the Star Wars Black version all by itself…

Straightaway, I have to say the stability on this toy is a hundred times better than what I got on my VC version. I don’t know if they just tightened up the joints or redesigned the ratchets, but this baby will stand and even pose with very little difficulty and that fix alone makes it a very welcome re-release. The detail on the sculpt is great in some areas, but feels a little wanting in others. I said it back when I reviewed the previous release, and I’ll reiterate here that I’m still amazed at how well the original Kenner toy holds up in that regard. As a result the detail here doesn’t feel like a huge leap forward over the original vintage toy. I don’t think that’s a slight against this toy, but rather just shows that the original was so well done. With that having been said, you get some nice detailing on the sides of the legs and the back of the head.

That’s not to say there isn’t improvement. Gone is the hokey Kenner walking gimmick and in its place is a pretty cool and complex network of articulation for the legs. The tops of the legs don’t connect directly to the body, but rather to articulated struts that can move away from the body. This adds a cool element of stabilization that would probably have to be present for this fictional vehicle to work well. In addition to that, you get ratcheting joints in the tops of the legs, at the first bend, again down near the ankles, and again at the ankles. I’ll admit, the toy could have really used some swivels or rockers at the ankles to make it able to stand in more extreme poses, but it gets by pretty well as it is.

The head design features two different cheek weapons. On the right hand side, there’s a grenade launcher and a cluster of blasters on the left. Both of these can rotate. The windows also have hinged armor plates that can be left open or buttoned up for combat. The stock chin gun can rotate left and right and raise and lower to target enemies ahead or below. You also have the ability to swap out this gun with a dual missile launcher. Yup, this is the same option that the Vintage Collection version featured. I think the original idea was to make it more kid friendly by giving it missiles and a firing gimmick. but I actually think this works well as just a different weapons load out. The missiles are kind of fun, but I prefer the one that comes attached to the vehicle in the package.

The top of the head is hinged so the entire plate can be opened to allow easy access to the drivers’ cabin. Apart from the added articulation, the biggest draw of this modern AT-ST over the old Kenner one is the expanded cockpit that can seat two drivers very comfortably. The cockpit itself features some great detail, including seats, controls, and foot pedals. The sides of the cockpit feature some pre-applied stickers with more instruments and screens.

The smaller hatch on the roof will also open to allow one driver to pop his head out and there’s a railing around the roof to prevent careless accidents at the Imperial workplace. Wait, the Imperial engineers put railings on this thing but not on those two-foot wide elevated walkways on the Death Star?

Unlike the Vintage Collection release, this AT-ST does include a driver figure and that’s certainly a nice bonus, but for the original price of this thing, they should have thrown in two. I’m pretty sure this guy is a repack of the Vintage Collection AT-ST Crew two-pack, released sometime around 2012. It’s a decent figure, albeit a tad generic looking.  He’s wearing pale gray jumpsuit with some nice sculpted rumples and pockets, black boots and gloves, a standard issue Imperial belt, and he has a chest harness with shoulder straps. The helmet is removable and he has a pretty good head sculpt hiding under it. He also comes with a standard E-11 Blaster, but no holster to store it. The articulation is kind of a mixed bag, in that he has full on rotating hinges in the limbs and a ball joint in the chest, but the t-crotch feels like a bit of a throwback. Still, he gets the job done, and I may have to hunt down one more of these guys.

Overall, I like this toy a lot. It’s a great sculpt and it’s loads of fun now that the crappy legs from the Vintage Collection release have been fixed. Unfortunately, the bland colored plastic and unconvincing weathering do tend to put a damper on things. Either way, I don’t know what they were smoking when they slapped the original $60 MSRP on this thing, but I can’t come close to justifying that kind of money, even if it is a pretty good toy. At $35 or $40, these might have actually found their way off Walmart’s shelves and into collectors’ shopping carts. But at $25, I’m overall satisfied with the purchase. The deco might be a step back, but at least I don’t have to prop a doll stand up under it if I want to keep it on display.

Star Wars Black: Imperial Royal Guard by Hasbro

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.

Star Wars Black (Legends): Jaina Solo by Hasbro

Folks, I’m kind of at a crossroads with the 6-inch Star Wars Black Series and today’s review is a great example of why. For the most part, this line hasn’t been living up to my expectations, at least not consistently, and I’m constantly considering whether I really need to keep collecting it. At the same time, there are enough genuinely good figures tossed in at regular intervals to make me want to stick around. Either way, I was genuinely excited to hear that Jaina Solo was getting a release, especially since she’s been wiped clean by Disney’s purge of most of the Expanded Universe. I’m actually quite surprised she would get a release at all, since the current Trilogy has replaced Han and Leia’s Expanded Universe kids with Ben Solo, and acknowledging her existence is somewhat problematic and potentially confusing to some of the younger fans out there.

And yet here she is! Because in the end it’s all about finding new ways to bring in more Republic Credits, right? And I guess if that means merchandising those characters that now never were, so be it. Case in point, by slapping the name “Legends” in parenthesis on the package characters like Jaina Solo can live again, even if she is no longer canon. Of course, Jaina’s appearance is mostly thanks to the results of a Fan Poll a while back. Prior to that one, a previous Poll gave us Darth Revan, which granted is also an Expanded Universe character, but seeing as how he’s from The Old Republic, there’s no reason to presume he can’t still have existed in the current Star Wars canon. Sheesh, this is all so complicated, let’s just look at the figure.

OK, so first off, is this really supposed to be her Stealth-X suit? If that’s the case it’s pretty far off the mark, at least going on what I remember from the Dark Horse comic. Then again, I suppose there’s no definitive design for Hasbro to work off of. Maybe I’m just a little bitter because I wish she was wearing just a regular orange X-Wing pilot suit. With all that having been said, the suit is nicely detailed with the ribbed vest, control box on the chest, leg straps, and all the trappings of your typical Star Wars Universe flight suit. She also has a smuggler-style belt with a low slung holster, just the kind that dear old Dad used to wear. There’s some copper paint on the straps for the chest box, but the underlying black suit is devoid of almost all other color. It only has some orange piping, which we’ll be able to see more clearly in a bit, and  you get a little extra gloss in the black boots and gloves.

Other than choice of suit, my biggest issue with this figure is the proportions, specifically in those arms. Why are the elbow joints placed so low? Why are her biceps so long? At first, I thought it was an optical illusion from the suit sculpt, but the more I look at it, the more I realize that someone at Hasbro doesn’t fully understand human anatomy, because the ratio of forearm to bicep on this figure is seriously askew and it really looks strange to me.

The portrait is also a sticking point for me. I don’t think the sculpt is bad. It’s a little soft, but they did get a little personality in there with her smirk, a little something else she picked up from Dad. I also can see a little of her Mom in her cheeks. The hair is sculpted pretty well too, with a hair band forming a pony tail at the back. I think it’s the paint here that really musses things up. Besides being the usual bare-minimum-basic paint job that Hasbro has been giving us with the human portraits, the eyes on mine just look terrible. They’re uneven, and they’re perpetually looking up. I’ve seen a lot of those pictures around the Net of people who do some amazing paint work on these portraits, but Jaina here doesn’t need amazing to be an improvement, just competent would do.

Luckily, Jaina comes with a helmet to help cover up the amateur hour paint-job. Again, the paint on this seems way off from what I remember in the comics. That one was sleeker and had little in the way of colored markings or detail. This one looks more like a Resistance helmet from the current Trilogy. But with that having been said, the paintwork on it is pretty good and I like how worn and weathered it looks. The visor could have been a little cleaner, but hey, all the better to hide her eyes.

What’s cool about this figure is that the flight gear is easily removable and under it you get an outfit that could pass as just her regular space-adventure garb. Here’s where you can see more of the orange piping on her top, as well as a thin belt with silver belt buckle hiding behind her gunbelt. The gunbelt features some nice detail on the pouches and even some silver paint for the button snaps. The holster fits her blaster quite well, and she also has a hook to hang her lightsaber from.

I’m not sure if the blaster is new or not, but it looks a lot like the standard DL-44 we’ve seen a few times in this series. It features good sculpted detail and Jaina’s right hand is sculpted with a trigger finger and holds it really well.

Her lightsaber hilt is quite unique and comes with a detachable purple blade. It even has a little purple paint on the side of the hilt, making it all the more distinctive. She can hold it either hand or wield it two-handed if you prefer.

The articulation here is pretty typical for Hasbro’s SWB ladies, with just one big surprise. The arms feature rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists, but there are no bicep swivels. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, have double hinges in the knees, hinges and rockers, in the ankles, and swivels in the thighs. The torso features a ball joint under the chest, and here’s the big surprise… an additional ab crunch hinge just above the waist. Finally, the neck is both ball jointed and hinged.

Make no mistake, there’s some great stuff to be found in this figure, and I was pleasantly surprised at how versatile she is with the removable flight gear. But the portraits in this line continue to disappoint me, and let’s face it, this one wasn’t even based on any specific likeness, but rather a comic character at best, or a description in a book. Toss in the bizarre arm proportions and we’ve got some serious problems for a $20 figure in a line for collectors. And yes, I still wish they released Jaina in her regular orange flight suit, but that last bit is just my personal preference. I probably have five or six SWB figures that I still have to review, and as I get around to reviewing them, I’m going to really be weighing the merits of staying in this line, or maybe just being a hell of a lot pickier about the figures that I buy from it.

Star Wars Black (The Last Jedi): Maz Kanata by Hasbro

How about The Last Jedi, huh? It’s really bringing the fan community together! That was sarcasm. I’m honestly surprised at how polarizing it’s been, because personally, after two viewings I’m still pretty mixed on it. There were parts I loved, parts I hated. I didn’t like it nearly as much as The Force Awakens or Rogue One. Overall I didn’t find it to be all that enjoyable, and it was a really weird movie Still, it’s not worth losing my shit over by attacking other fans who didn’t love it and/or hate it enough. Apparently I’m in the minority on that one. What’s all this got to do with Maz Kanata? Well, she had a cameo in the new movie, and oddly enough Hasbro chose now to give her a figure, rather then back when she had a slightly bigger role in The Force Awakens. Let’s take a look…

There isn’t a lot to say about the packaging, as it hasn’t changed much this past year or so. Black box, monochrome art, red backing behind the tray. Maz is figure #49 and the copy on the back clearly places this figure from the period after her castle was destroyed in The Force Awakens. Strange, since she comes with the accessories seen in that movie instead of maybe the jetpack she wore in The Last Jedi. As much as I liked Maz in TFA, her cameo in The Last Jedi just didn’t work for me. I’d argue that it might have been worthwhile to keep her in the audiences’ minds for an appearance in the next movie, but I highly doubt the continuity in this trilogy is being planned that carefully.

But all context aside, this is a fantastic little sculpt! Her little vest and belt are sculpted from separate pieces and there’s some wonderful texturing on her shirt, as well as detail on her bracelets and boots. The excellent sculpt is backed up by some very nice coloring, including brown trousers, and a teal shirt. The gold and silver bracelets and some rather colorful paint applications on her boots make the figure’s deco quite striking. I just love everything they did here.

The head sculpt here is equally impressive, and continues to reinforce the fact that SWB’s sculpts and paint tends to excel with the aliens as much as it often fails with the human characters. They’ve managed to capture personality, as well as all little wrinkles, in her face and her skin has an almost metallic coppery sheen to it. It even looks like they added some gloss to her bottom lip. The paint on my figure’s eyes could have been a little more even, but I’ve definitely seen worse.

The hat and googles are also pretty damn neat. The goggles are pegged into the sides of her head, so you can actually slide them down over her eyes and they look great in either position. It’s a simple little gimmick, but I’m really happy Hasbro made the effort to do it.

While Maz may be small, she doesn’t lack in articulation. She has rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees, and ankles, as well as ball joints in the hips and neck, and swivels at the thighs and the waist. There’s not much missing here then you’d find in a regular sized figure, except maybe a torso ball joint.

Maz comes with a few pretty cool accessories, the most notable being the old trunk that she kept Luke’s lightsaber in, and yes, she also comes with the lightsaber to put in it. I really dig the sculpting on this chest. The wood looks ancient and warped, the fixtures holding it together have a hammered metal finish and feature sculpted rivets. The only downside here is that the hinges are not really hinges, but just soft, bendy pieces of plastic, so I imagine that opening and closing it a lot will eventually cause them to stress and break. It’s just an all around great looking piece, but I’ll confess that it’s probably going to end up getting re-purposed to either my Mythic Legions or LJN Advanced Dungeons & Dragons collections. You can never have enough treasure chests in your fantasy action figure lines! The lightsaber hilt is the same old thing we’ve seen countless times in the 6-inch Black Series.

Maz also comes with an old DH-17 Blaster pistol, which feels more like a rifle when wielded by someone with her tiny stature. We’ve obviously seen this accessory before, but I have a soft spot for this design, so I’m always happy to get another.

I think Hasbro did a beautiful job on this little lady, but is she worth $20? Well, in fairness I got her on sale for $11, so I’m pretty happy. But I do think the value here feels a little better than that of the other small 6-inch Black Series figures like Yoda or the Jawa. Part of that comes from the sizable trunk accessory, but a lot of it also comes from the excellent articulation, as well as the top notch sculpt and paintwork. It would have been cool to get this figure back when The Force Awakens was out, but better late than never, I suppose! It’s just a shame that Hasbro never gave us more figures of some of the characters hanging out in Maz’s castle. Maybe later on down the road, they’ll fill in some of those spots.

Star Wars Black (The Last Jedi): Elite Praetorian Guards by Hasbro

What’s that? You didn’t get enough Star Wars content over the weekend. 30 figures and a handful of vehicles just didn’t cut it? Well, your wish is my command and I’m about to slather some more Star Wars content all over your morning muffin. Let’s check out not one, but two versions of The Elite Praetorian Guards from the 6-inch Black Series!

The packaging holds few surprises, as these guys come in your run of the mill Black Series window boxes. The only thing out of the ordinary here is that the one with the Heavy Blade is an Amazon Exclusive and thus not a numbered figure. It also features red character art on the front and comes in a plain cardboard mailer box. The regular release is #50, and I really think that Hasbro could have come up with a more interesting character to take the fifty slot. While these fellas are being billed as the successors to the Emperor’s Royal Guard from Return of the Jedi, I think we’re going to actually get to see these guys fight, so that’ll be cool. But are the figures cool?

Eh, kinda? I’m actually a little lukewarm (HA! That’s a Star Wars pun!) on these guys and part of that is due to the costume design and part is due to the execution of the actual figure. The first thing worth noting is that from the neck down, these guys are identical. That’s good if you want to skip one, but it’s also good if you want to pick up the Exclusive and have a pair to flank your Snoke. And yes, I just realized that “flank your Snoke” sounds like a dirty euphemism.

The bad thing here is that by design, these guys are pretty bland. The upper body armor and sleeves are cast in shiny red plastic, and the skirts are cast in a soft matte plastic textured to look like leather. There’s a similar matte leather textured area sculpted around the neck. Lifting their skirts reveals some textured black plastic for their legs, more glossy red plastic for their boots and black paint on the soles of their boots. It’s tough for me to tell from the screen grabs, but I’m pretty sure the skirts on the movie costumes are fabric, and if that’s the case, I think softgoods would have been the way to go for the figures. It looks really good on the Emperor’s Royal Guard robes and I think it would have looked better here. At least it would have helped to break up the monotony of red plastic.

The helmets are the same basic idea, but the configurations are different. The regular release has ribbed face guard that looks almost like a fencing mask to me. The exclusive version has one that’s peaked and looks more like a classical knight helmet. The exclusive version’s helmet also peaks at the back, whereas the regular release is flat. These variations seem to match the pair that was shown in the trailer. To complicate things further, the Big Fig version by Jakks Pacific has a completely different helmet configuration, which is also reflected in the Hasbro 3 3/4-inch version that’s packed with Rey.

One thing I really don’t care for are the segmented sleeves. These just look weird to me and remind me of the segmented hoses that they used to use for robots arms and legs in the 60’s. Kind of cheesy. They also make it tough to find the elbow joint buried in there, and they don’t have a lot of range of motion anyway. And as long as we’re touching on the subject of articulation, here’s what we’re looking at. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, have swivels in the thighs, double hinges in the knees, and hinges and lateral rockers in the ankles. The splits in the skirts mean that they don’t effect articulation much at all. The arms have rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. There’s swivel in the waist, a ball joint in the chest, and both a hinge and ball joint in the neck. Other than those elbows the articulation is overall excellent. My only other issue is that the soft plastic skirt looks awkward at really low crouches. Another reason softgoods would have been welcome here.

Besides the helmets, the big difference between these guys is their gear. The regular release comes with red and silver glaive. It’s a good looking weapon with nice texturing on the shaft. The blade is painted silver and has a long, sweeping blade, which resembles a falchion. It’s an elegant looking weapon to be sure, and he looks damn good holding it.

The exclusive version has the heavy bladed glaive with a shorter, broader blade and a longer shaft. This one looks a lot less elegant and a little unwieldy. I actually prefer the one that comes with the regular release.

The exclusive version also comes with a Force Pike, somewhat similar to the ones carried by the Emperor’s Royal Guard, but with a red hilt. I should note that I’m assuming the other weapons are vibro-axes and not regular edged weapons.

Each of these figures are running around $20 right now on Amazon. If you’re only going to get one, the Elite seems to be a bit of a better value as he comes with the extra weapon, but I suppose in the end it should come down to helmet preference. I actually like them both about the same. As for the overall figures, they’re OK. I think we’re going to see them in action in the movie and that may buoy my opinion of them after, but for now, I definitely prefer the designs of the old Royal Guards over these. Speaking of which, if I’m not too busy tonight, I may come back later with a look at the Black Series Royal Guard.

Star Wars Black: First Order Stormtrooper (Amazon Exclusive) by Hasbro

While I’m saving my pile of 3 3/4-inch Star Wars toys for the week leading up to Episode Eight, I’m still trying to get through the rest of this stuff beforehand. And that’s not an easy feat, because it keeps rolling in. Today’s release reminded me how surprised I was to see that Hasbro didn’t reissue the First Order Stormtrooper as part of the 6-inch Black Series figures for The Last Jedi. Nope, instead we got a regular Stormtrooper and the Stormtrooper Executioner, which was OK, but nothing really special. Yes, there’s still plenty of time, but maybe it had something to do with Amazon offering this pretty cool exclusive version with a whole bunch of extra gear.

Behold, the Amazon Exclusive First Order Stormtrooper and his snazzy packaging! The box features a bowed front with pictures of three different flavors of Stormtroopers: Regular, Riot Control, and Heavy Gunner. Based on the size of the box, you might be inclined to believe that all three are in here, but nope. You get one Stormtrooper and all the gear to make any of the three you want. The back of the package features another piece of monochrome art with a closer look at everyone’s favorite space-faring thugs. The graphics are actually on a sleeve, which lifts off to reveal…

Some windows, which feature a very familiar Imperial pattern, and a First Order emblem. These are actually folded flaps secured by velcro, which open to reveal the figure on his tray, flanked by all his goodies. I don’t tend to save the packaging for my Black Series figures, but I think I’ll make an exception here. It looks so nice, it’s totally collector friendly, and it’ll give me a place to keep all this stuff. Let’s start off by looking at the regular Stormtrooper.

There aren’t a lot of surprises here, and despite a few minor differences in paint, he appears to be the same figure we’ve been getting all along. That’s not a bad thing, because this was always a pretty solid release. The plastic has a nice shiny finish to it, although the black paint could have been sharper in a few areas. I’m still surprised how I’ve taken to this design since it was first revealed. My first knee jerk reaction was that Disney shouldn’t have messed with such an iconic design, but it’s really grown on me over the last few years.

Articulation is identical to what we saw with previous First Order Stormies. The arms have rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, have double hinged knees, swivels at the tops of the thighs, and the ankles feature both hinges and lateral rockers. The torso has a ball joint under the chest armor and the neck is both hinged and ball jointed. I have no real issues with the points here, except for the elbows, where the sculpt doesn’t allow for enough of a bend. Some double hinges would have been nice there, but Hasbro seems to save those for the Marvel Legends and not the Black Series. I can’t imagine why, but I wish they would reconsider.

He comes with the same blaster and pistol that we saw with the regular release of this figure for The Force Awakens. Both weapons have a tab on the side, which can plug into the slot on his leg for storage. They’re both great sculpts and feature white and black decos to match the armor, and with a little silver trim on the scope. Before we move on to the rest of the gear, here’s a quick picture of him alongside the regular release Stormtrooper and the Riot Control Stormtrooper.

Which one is which? Don’t ask me. I’ve already mixed them all up. The biggest difference in the paint that I can see is on the belt. There’s a black dash painted on the box that is second to the left on two of them, but third to the left on the other. Let’s move on to the accessories and start by kitting him out as the Riot Control Stormtrooper

This guy, made famous in The Force Awakens by FN-2199, is equipped with his electrified baton and riot shield. The shield is basically the same one that came with the Riot Control Stormtrooper that was packed with Poe Dameron in his Resistance jacket. It features two soft straps, one to go around the forearm and the other can be grasped in the Stormie’s hand. It can take a little work to get him to hold it right, but once it’s in position it looks great. The baton, on the other hand is a new sculpt and where the previous one was just a static piece, this one has articulated tongs that can be turned around to make it look like it’s activated. I was pleasantly surprised that they produced an entirely new piece for this set. Now let’s go for the Heavy Gunner!

Oh boy, do I love the way this guy looks. The equipment includes a heavy artillery vest, which fastens around his torso and fits the figure perfectly. There’s also an ammo pouch, which you can clip to the vest, and a backpack that plugs into a peg on the back of the vest’s straps. Of course, he isn’t a Heavy Gunner without a big gun, so you also get his Mega-Blaster.

This is a pretty damn big gun with the same white and black deco as the smaller weapons. It also has a hinged grab-bar on the side. I love the look of this thing, but I do wish he could hold it better. His right hand seems to be sculpted pretty well for it, but it’s so bulky that it’s hard to get it into the crook of his arm. It also doesn’t help that the figure doesn’t have a lot of range of motion in those elbows. Now, I’m not saying he can’t hold it. I’ve been able to get some pretty good poses of him ready for action, but it isn’t as comfy a fit as I would have liked. Fortunately, he really doesn’t have to hold it…

Because it comes with this mount and stability bar, both of which peg into the bottom of the weapon. OK, so if we’re to assume the Hot Toys version is accurate, the stand is actually supposed to fold up under the gun when it’s not in use, but I can forgive Hasbro for going this route for the 6-inch figure.

You also get one final piece of equipment, and that’s a pair of binoculars. These are surprisingly nice, with a very detailed sculpt and a hinge that lets them fold up in the middle. Unfortunately, it’s pretty tough to get him to hold them like he’s using them.

If you can’t tell, I’m very pleased with this set. I’m always happy to add another Stormtrooper to my collection, and the versatility that comes with swapping out all this gear makes this figure a lot of fun. It’s even more fun if you already own a few First Order Stormies to borrow some of the gear. The Amazon Exclusive Stormtrooper retails at about $35. I’m OK with that price, but if you break it down the extra $15 seems a little steep, even with all these accessories in the package. At least you do get some nice premium packaging to store it all in and to date, this is the only way to get a Heavy Gunner Stormtrooper in the 6-inch Scale.

Star Wars Black: 40th Anniversary Legacy Pack with Darth Vader by Hasbro

In case you missed it, 2017 is the 40th Anniversary of A New Hope, and Hasbro did the bulk of its celebrating through the 6-inch Black Series. Not only did we finally the last of Kenner’s “Original Twelve” figures in the 6-inch format, but Hasbro also released all of them on vintage-style cards. The entire thing culminated in the release of a new Darth Vader bundled with a recreation of the Kenner Early Bird Kit display stage. Let’s start off with the packaging and the figure, and then we’ll take a look at the stage.

The set comes in an elongated box with some artwork similar to that old Kenner kit. There’s also a window that shows the carded Darth Vader figure inside. The stage itself is pictured on the front along with a silver foil 40th Anniversary shield, and the Kenner logo in the bottom right hand corner. It’s kind of an oddball presentation that borders on ugly, but it’s all part of recreating the charm of one of the craziest ideas in action figure history. But more on that in a bit. Let’s look at Vader first…

The carded figure is right in line with the rest of the 40th Anniversary releases, so if you are keeping these mint-on-card, he’ll display with the rest of them perfectly. Then again, if you’re doing that, you really don’t need the stage. Hasbro really just wants you to buy two of each of these, only not really, because they did a piss-poor job of distributing them. If you’re area is like mine, you’d be lucky to find one complete set, let alone two. But I’ll settle down now, because I can fell the anger flowing through me.

When I first heard about this figure, I assumed it was going to be a quick-and-dirty apology figure for the Return of the Jedi version we got boxed a little while back. I figured they’d slap on a new head and he’d be done. I was surprised to learn that a lot of new work went into him. Now, I’m not one of those *air quotes* “Vader Experts,” but I do know that there were some significant changes to the suit between ANH and RotJ. The most obvious was the inner robe running over the shoulder armor in the original suit and it does here as well. The rest of the changes include a fully re-sculpted upper torso, with a bigger chest box, and a new belt with bigger and different control boxes there as well. The legs appear to be the same, but the boots on this one are more of a matte finish.  One point where this version takes a step back is in the cape. The RotJ release is an all around nicer tailored garment. This one is is thinner and it came out of the package a little wrinkled. Also, the cape’s chain is gone. So, from the neck down, I wouldn’t say this figure is better, but just different, and appropriately so.

Now, the helmet sculpt is a huge improvement over the previous release, and I’m not talking about changes to the costume. The RotJ version made obvious sacrifices to have a removable helmet, resulting in that giant, sad-eyed Vader look. This new helmet sculpt is pretty damn tight and also features more of a matte finish. I don’t know that I would say it’s perfect, but it’s a good looking sculpt and I’m very happy with the way it turned out.

Another big change is the new left hand, which features Vader doing the force choke throat pinch. It can also be used as a pointing finger. I love it.

The last notable difference that I can see is the inclusion of a belt hook for his light saber. It irked me to no end that the RotJ version didn’t have a way for Vader to wear his saber. This feature also required a brand new saber hilt sculpt with the ring on it. Sadly, this one doesn’t work so well. I can’t really get it to stay in place and even in the above picture he’s really holding it there.

I don’t have much else to say, except this is the Vader figure we should have had first. It’s fantastic, and when you consider how many goddamn Darth Vader figures I’ve had over the years in all different scales and price points, I’m surprised at how much fun I’ve had playing around with this one.  Let’s move on to the stage…

The stage requires assembly, and the parts come in four baggies, and includes a folded cardboard backdrop and a sticker for the top of the frame. Assembly is quick and easy and I was happy to see that the set can easily be broken down again for storage. Before I cobble this thing together, a little explanation of what this thing is may be in order for you younger folk out there. In Christmas of 1977, Kenner was unprepared for the popularity of Star Wars and the demand for the action figures. Their rather creative solution was to offer an Early Bird Kit, which included vouchers, which could be mailed in for four figures, to be delivered when supply could catch up to demand.  The kit also included membership in the Star Wars Fan Club, and a cardboard display stand. This set mimics that general idea, while also making it a little more substantial by adding a plastic frame to the backdrop, and a plastic stage to put the figures on.

There are two backdrop graphics to choose from. One has the vintage-style artwork of each of the characters, suggesting where to place the figures on the stand. The flip-side has some nice vintage-style art of an X-Wing and Tie-Fighter battling it out in orbit of The Death Star. Overall, this is a pretty nice stage, but I wish they had added more pieces to help lock the cardboard into place. As it is, there are just two little swing down pieces in the corners. There are, however, clearly holes in the frame for two more in the sides, and possibly two at the top, but those pieces aren’t in the box. I guess Hasbro cheaped out on those. It also would have been nice if they could have packaged it so the cardboard didn’t need to be folded, although the creases really aren’t that bad. I suppose some of these nitpicks give the piece a certain vintage charm that reflects back to the original Early Bird release, but I’m sure that wasn’t intentional.

Here it is loaded up with the Black Series “Original Twelve,” and using the character art backdrop as a guide. I expected it to be a lot more cramped than it is, but with three figures on each of the four sections, it’s not too bad, so long as you’re going for fairly static 5-POA style poses. I’m not a huge fan of the way the characters are laid out. For example, I would rather have R2 and 3PO together, but I still think that this is the way I’ll go for display purposes. It is worth mentioning that I had mixed results with the foot pegs. Most of them work OK, but 3PO’s would not go in at all and the Tusken Raider’s doesn’t hold him up too well.

If you’re willing to use a little shelf real estate in front of the stand, you can also fit everyone together in more dynamic poses, and I think this looks pretty good too. This set originally retailed for $40, so you figure twenty for Vader and twenty for the stage. The Vader figure is worth it, no question. The stage is worth having, but I’m not sure I can see twenty dollars in there. With that having been said, this set was deeply discounted at some Walmarts, but of course the ones in my area weren’t among them. I picked up my set off Amazon for $25 and it’s price continues to fluctuate. I could definitely see myself picking up one more at the same price to display some more figures. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for Hasbro to release packs of just the base pieces, maybe as an exclusive to their website. Just toss four or five of them in a bag. I’d be all over that.

Just a heads up, Marvel content is taking over FFZ all of next week. So if that’s not your cup of tea, I’ll apologize in advance, but I’ve got some stuff on my pile that I’d like to get to sooner rather than later. Things will return to normal the following week, and I’m trying to get some time to bring back Anime Saturday at least once in November.