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.

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Star Wars Black: Bastila Shan (3 3/4” Scale) by Hasbro

A little while ago Hasbro released Knights of the Old Republic character Bastila Shan in their Vintage Collection. This made yours truly very sad because this figure was very poorly distributed and it was only available for exorbitant scalper prices. The evil scalpers didn’t care one jot nor piffle that I loved KotR with all my heart and desperately wanted some figures because the only way I can express my love for something is to buy little plastic versions of it. The same was pretty much true for all the Knights figures Hasbro released and so I was forced to go without. Fast forward to now and Hasbro has managed to scratch out a few of the bastard points they earned from me by re-releasing Bastila as part of that most dubious of endeavors… the Star Wars Black 3 3/4” line. A line where just about any good figure appearing in it has been repacked or bumped from another line. And that brings us to today’s feature!

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As mentioned, the original release of Bastila came on a snazzy looking, albeit completely nonsensical and ret-conned, vintage-style card. This re-release comes on the crappy and thoughtless Star Wars Black card. Don’t worry, I’m not even going to complain about the packaging this time. Hasbro could have dropped her into a used sardine tin and I still would have happily purchased this figure. Now, the last thing I want to do is piss all over this gesture of good will, but it would have been even better had Hasbro released the rest of those expensive and hard to get Knights figures in this line. Even if they dropped one into each wave it would have been a great way to get characters like Revan, Malak and HK-47 into the hands of desparate collectors like me. Oh well…

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And there she is! It’s funny how instantly iconic Bastila’s costume has become for me, but then I did spent well over 100 hours on just the first KotoR alone, so at one point all these character designs must have been burned into my retinas. And rightly so, because Bastila is a great character, and certainly among my favorites in the Expanded Universe that I guess doesn’t exist anymore? Huh. Now I’m kind of depressed. Anyway, Hasbro did a wonderful job sculpting the Old Republic equivalent of her Jedi garb. I like this rather sleek and less bulky look, not only because Bastila was easy on the eyes, but because it seems like it would be easier to fight with as opposed to draping yourself in layers of window treatments. I like the scrollwork sculpted into the brown leather portions of the outfit and there’s some particularly nice detail work on the pouches of her belt. The strips of skirt are made of soft plastic and they don’t inhibit the leg articulation too badly.

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The portrait here is decent enough. It’s not that amazing a likeness of the in-game model, but considering Hasbro’s track record on the 3 3/4” ladies, I’ll take what I can get. The paint looks fine under normal viewing, but as is often the case with figures in this scale it breaks down a bit the closer you get. Yeah, the skin tone is a little bit waxy, but in the pictures that’s mostly enhanced by my studio lights. I do really like the one wisp of hair that’s drawn across her forehead just below her hairline. It’s a characteristic that was in the game model and a nice bit of attention to detail to include it on the figure.

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Despite the mold being more than a few years old, the articulation here is decent for modern Hasbro standards. You get ball joints in the neck, shoulders, elbows, knees, and ankles. There are swivels in the wrists and in the waist. Unfortunately, the hips use the tired old T-crotch, which Hasbro just will not give up on.

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Bastila comes with both a lit and unlit version of her double-bladed lightsaber. The unlit hilt is pegged so that it can attach to her belt, which is always a welcome feature. The lit one features yellow blades and she can hold it pretty well in her left hand while her right hand is sculpted to be doing some kind of Force hocus-pocus Battle Meditation mumbo-jumbo.

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I absolutely love this figure and I’m thrilled to finally be able to get it at a decent price. In fact, I was able to pick her up from the Interwebs for only $10, which is about a fifth of what she was going for in some of the scalper channels. Hasbro has been putting the bro back in Hasbro lately by using current lines to re-release hard to get figures. They did it in the Infinite Series with Omega Red and I hope they keep it up. The only thing that makes me sad about owning this figure is that it reminds me I’m missing all the other Knights of the Old Republic figures. And that Hasbro never made a 3 3/4” scale Ebon Hawk, but that’s a rant for another day.

Star Wars: Mara Jade Bishoujo Statue by Kotobukiya

It’s time for another installment of, “Kotobukiya is taking all my f’cking monies!” So far, they’ve raided my wallet for statues based on the DC, Marvel, Street Fighter, and even Ghostbusters licenses. Today I start down the Dark Path and forever will it dominate my bank account. It’s Star Wars Kotobukiya. Now, Koto is no stranger to the Star Wars license. They’ve been making ArtFX+ and Fine Art statues from the property for years, but they’ve just started introducing Star Wars to the Bishoujo line and that’s where I got on board. I’m starting with their second Star Wars Bishoujo, and it’s that red headed minx, Mara Jade.

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The statue comes in a pretty simple black box with the Star Wars logo on the front and a rather limited window that shows off the statue’s portrait, as well as an arm socket. Yes, there is assembly required! The side panels show a shot of the statue as well as some of the line art. It’s not as flashy as the regular Bishoujo packages, but it works well enough for a Star Wars product. I will note that the packaging does its best to irritate my OCD. The front is clearly labeled as an ArtFX statue with no indication that it’s part of the Bishoujo line until you read the copy on the back of the box. Does it matter? Not really. What does matter is Koto equipped this gal with more than a few display options to embrace both her service to the Empire and her redemption. For the purposes of this feature I’m going to start out with my preferred method of display and then we’ll look at the other option.

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Dayuum… check her out! Here’s living proof that Koto doesn’t have to show a lot of skin in a statue to make it sexy. Of course, a skin tight outfit and a killer bod does go a long way. Mara is wrapped in a two-tone blue bodysuit, which features all the usual little piping and wrinkles that they love to pack into these statue sculpts. I particularly like the um… ribbed padding on her inner thighs, the knee pads, and her high heeled combat boots. Yum! The use of both matte and gloss for the two materials also makes for a very dynamic contrast on this piece. Also, I’ll just go ahead and say it… that ass makes me want to cry.

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In addition to the body suit, Mara sports a gun belt with a blaster sculpted into the holster and a snap down pouch on her backside. The blaster and holster look so good that I actually thought the pistol might come out. She also has straps on her biceps and a shoulder harness with a silver fixture clasp on the back. There’s a cloth scarf and a set of goggles, both of which are separate pieces and are added or removed by popping off the statue’s head.

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The portrait here is exactly what I’ve come to expect from the Bishoujo line. Mara walks that line between cute and sexy. The face sculpt is quite soft and the paintwork on her lips, eyes and eyebrows is all immaculate. I’m also totally in love with how they did her flowing red hair. Just about every Koto Bishoujo statue goes for the windblown hair effect and they almost always nail it, but in this case, I think Mara’s hair just looks exceptionally well done. It also balances the composition of the piece quite nicely by countering her outstretched left arm. Mara’s right arm draws slightly behind her and the hand is sculpted to hold either of her lightsabers. The hilts on these are wonderfully detailed and they make use of a colored translucent plastic for the blade.

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The statue’s base is a simple clear plastic disc right in line with what we’ve seen for the recent Chun-Li Bishoujo and the Tekken Bishoujos. It doesn’t waste any space as it’s barely larger than the figure itself and both the lightsaber and outstretched arm extend past it. The bottom of the base opens up and you can insert either a Rebel or Imperial insignia inside or you can leave it clear if you so choose. I’m not usually a big fan of these clear bases, but in this case I think the ability to display the emblem adds value. I’ve opted for the Imperial insignia and purple lightsaber for my regular display of this statue.

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Of course, you do have options! Mara also comes with a removable, billowing cape that can be attached or removed by popping off the head. For this feature, I’ve chosen to go with the cape for the redeemed version of Mara and display it with the Luke Skywalker lightsaber and the Rebel insignia. Of course, you can mix and match all of this any way you want.

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The cape is my big dilemma with this statue. It looks outstanding and it really adds a lot to the composition of the piece. It creates a lot of kineticism to the pose by pushing back away from her outstretched hand and it complements the flow of the hair quite nicely as well. The khaki color has some nice shading and I particularly like the little tears and fraying sculpted into the end. So what’s the dilemma? It covers up that fine ass, and I simply can’t have that. The sculptors at Kotobukiya no doubt poured hours, neigh possibly days into getting that ass so perfect and I will not allow it to be obscured by an additional garment, even if you could argue that it’s essential to the statue’s fully realized composition.

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While I am still hemming and hawing over whether I need the Bishoujo Jaina Solo on my shelf, Mara Jade was a must buy the moment I saw her and she’s lived up to just about all my expectations. I will mention here that my particular statue has a stray mark of red paint on her left arm, just below the shoulder. It no doubt came from the hair and while it isn’t terrible, it’s worth pointing out because even with fifteen Bishoujo Statues under my belt, this is the first time I’ve ever had anything less than flawless paint. Honestly, I’ve seen far worse paint flubs on $200+ Bowen statues, so I’m not going to get all upset over it. At $55 Mara Jade is yet another example of what great value Kotobukiya offers in their products. She’s an absolutely gorgeous piece and she has an unprecedented amount of display options for the Bishoujo line. I can’t recommend her strongly enough.

Star Wars Black: Mara Jade (3 ¾” Scale) by Hasbro

Now that I’m getting caught up with some of my new receivings, I’m finally able to go back and start opening some of the figures that I picked up in the sales during Christmas. Since we’re between waves in the 6-inch Black line, I’ll be taking the opportunity over the next three or four weeks to get caught up on some of the 3 ¾” Black figures that remain stacked in the corner. I’m kicking it off with Mara Jade, because I really like her character and I was rather excited to get this figure. While most of my favorite Expanded Universe characters come from the Knights of the Old Republic era, Mara is my favorite contemporary EU character right beside Admiral Thrawn. I believe she was last released in a comic two-pack, but I never did find it on the pegs, so this will be my first and only Mara figure since the POTF2 release. Oh yeah, also it’s Friday and I’ve started drinking early. So, fair warning has been issued. Weeee! 

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I still haven’t warmed up to the use of the minimalist black deco on these regular carded packages and I don’t think I ever will. Then again after the majesty of the Vintage Collection, it’s hard for me to imagine Hasbro ever releasing a new and acceptable carded design. Even still, these cards look dull and show off fingerprints and scuffing. Also, the bubbles seem to have trouble sticking to them. It’s fun to go to the toy aisle at Target and see the empty cards hanging on the pegs and all the detatched bubbled figures in a pile on the shelf. Ah well. I think it’s all but accepted that this is line is a band aid to keep the pegs full until the toys from the new movie or TV series come out. I’ve got nothing else to say, so let’s rip her open and check her out. I don’t often start with the figure’s portrait, but in this case I really have to, because… this.

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Um, yeah. Obviously, someone at Hasbro is a big Peggy Bundy fan because Mara’s mountain of red hair is the spitting image of Katy Segal’s uber-teased hairdo from Married with Children. Folks, I just made a Married with Children reference in a Star Wars figure review. I think it’s time to close up shop and go home. Alas, I’m already home, so I’ll press on. Where was I? Oh yeah, hey Mara, Lion-O called and he wants his hair back. Ok, seriously, I got it all out of my system now. Suffice it to say that the sculpted hair on this figure is ridiculous and Hasbro would have been far better off just recycling one of the heads off of an Avengers Black Widow figure. We’ll see how that looks before I wrap up. The sad thing is the rest of the head sculpt is actually pretty good. It’s like the sculptor kept sending it up to some supervisor for approval and that supervisor would then snort an entire line of cocaine and proclaim, “More hair, damn you! It needs more hair!!!!” before going back to writing a PowerPoint presentation about how kids don’t really want a lot of articulation in their action figures.

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The sad thing about this figure is that once you move below the neck, what’s here is quite good. Granted, Mara is a chick in a black body suit, so it’s not like there was a lot of intricate sculpting and paintwork to be done. That didn’t stop Hasbro from including some nice little details like sculpting and painting the straps that hold on her shin guards. Plus, the body here is well proportioned and very nicely articulated. You get ball joints in the shoulders, elbows, knees, ankles, and in the torso. The wrists also have swivels. The only letdown here are the hips, which use a standard T-crotch and seems a tad primitive amidst all these ball joints.

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The most notable detail on the figure is the smuggler’s style belt that accommodates her accessories. You get a working holster for her pistol, which can be pegged onto her right thigh or behind her. Functional holsters are cool enough when used in this scale, but I don’t recall any figure ever having one with multiple attachment options. You also get a peg hole on the front to hold her lightsaber hilt and Mara comes with an additional lightsaber with the blade permanently lit. I’m a big fan of getting the lightsabers this way, rather than with a removable blade that will inevitably break.

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So how about that quick fix? It is indeed possible to slap the ScarJo Avengers Black Widow head on Mara. It’s not a perfect fit, as the ball joint on Mara is considerably larger than Widow’s. I was, however, able to make the swap without any additional shaving. The skin tone doesn’t match and she has a bit of a giraffe neck going on, but I still like it better than the Peggy Bundy head. I’ll also confess to having a little nerdgasm at seeing a ScarJo Mara Jade. I assumed the more recent “Avengers Assemble” Widow’s head would work too, since both Widows use the same body, but that head wouldn’t go on without shaving the ball joint and I’m not really prepared to do that.

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So, Mara turned out to be quite a disappointment unless I want to have a headless Black Widow. It’s no secret that most of the 3 ¾” SWB figures I’ve looked at have been pretty poor repacks. It’s sad, but not a big deal since I got most of those for under $5 each.I Mara here set me back a full tenner and I was hoping she’d fall in line with the excellent Padme Amidala figure. Alas, that really isn’t the case. It’s a shame that Hasbro produced such a nice figure only to fail so miserably with the 80’s rock band head. Still, if I ever want to have a figure to stand in for one of the Wilson sisters and go on tour with Heart, Mara’s certainly going to be that girl.

Star Wars Expanded Universe: Kyle Katarn by Hasbro

I’m opening some Star Wars figures this week, so I should be getting some related features up throughout the course of July, and I decided to kick it off with one of my favorite unsung heroes of the Expanded Universe… Mr. Kyle Katarn! The first half of the 90’s presented us PC gamers with all sorts of great outlets for our Star Wars love. I shudder to think how much time I spent, fingers gripping a flightstick, playing the X-Wing and Tie Fighter games. But when LucasArts took the first-person shooter gameplay of hits like Doom and Duke Nukem and interjected it into a brand new narrative set in the Star Wars universe, I was in heaven. If you wanted to know what a mid-90’s era Star Wars fanboy orgasm on the PC looked like, here it is…

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Yup, it’s a pixelated mess… but it was the shit! I can still hear the glorious midi soundtrack building to a crescendo as I take out Stormtroopers with my E-11 Blaster. Yeah! Take that, bitches! Getting my hands on this game was a HUGE deal to me and I played it like crazy… over and over again. You know those hardcore Korean gamers that have to be ripped away from Starcraft to save them from dehydration? Well, that’s crazy… this wasn’t anything like that… forget that… I just really loved Dark Forces and played it a lot. And while sadly Dark Forces has yet to get the action figure attention of Shadows of the Empire, it wasn’t left out completely.

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Vader looks so damn cute on the POTF2 cards. He looks like a pug wearing a helmet. While it doesn’t say so on the package, Katarn is basically part of the Power of the Force 2 line. Instead, the figure gets the “Expanded Universe” moniker, and while the package also suggests Kyle is from Dark Forces, I’m pretty sure he didn’t sport the beard until appearing in the subsequent pseudo-sequel Jedi Knight. I would have preferred a clean-shaven Kyle. Jedi Knight was a fine game and all, but I always liked the blaster-toting, space pirate mercenary aspect of Star Wars better than the mystical Jedi Knight bullshit, hence my love for Dark Forces. It was a shooter with no mystic bullshit.  As much as I liked seeing Kyle come back, did he really need to become a Jedi? DOES EVERYONE NEED TO BE A JEDI??? Anyway, you’ll also note the package proclaims it can be converted into a 3-D diorama! We’ll get to that in bit!

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Kyle himself is a decent looking figure for the period. He isn’t nearly as ridiculously buff as some of the POTF2 figures and the sculpt really strides that line between vintage and modern. I dig Kyle’s outfit a lot. It definitely has a little Han Solo smuggler vibe to it, particularly in the belt and holsters, but the rest of the design is rather distinctive. He’s got an armor vest, kneepads, and some chunky boots. It’s an original looking ensemble, but one that definitely fits the Star Wars universe. There’s some unfortunate paint splatter on the back of my figure, and I’m not a fan of the spray used on his boots, but all in all, not bad!

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The likeness is good enough for a character that is based off a computer drawing, although later Katarn would be depicted in the flesh through FMV and the figure is even passable for the actor. The paintwork on the eyes and beard is all quite solid too. Granted, you don’t see a whole lot of Kyle in Dark Forces, as it’s a POV shooter, but the character has had plenty of face time since, and this figure does him proud. In the context of POTF2 figures, this is a pretty fantastic head sculpt.

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Kyle features only six points of articulation. You get the usual head, shoulders and hips of the vintage figures, with an additional swivel in the waist. He’s a tad pre-posed with a wide stance. It makes him look great on the shelf, like he’s ready for action, but sadly it also makes him rather incompatible with most vehicle cockpits. But hey, it’s not like Hasbro ever gave us a Moldy Crow for him to ride in. By the way, Moldy Crow is the worst name for a spaceship ever. If Shipwreck from GI JOE had a spaceship, I’m pretty sure that’s what he would name it.

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Weapons! Dark Forces was all about weapons, but Kyle only comes with two. First, you get his modified Bryar blaster pistol. It’s somewhat close to the pistol in the game, but it doesn’t have the magazine on the side. In terms of default FPS weapons, this one was pretty nice and accurate. The other weapon is either the Imperial Repeater or the Packered Mortar Gun? It doesn’t look much like either weapon model, as I remember them. Of course, my favorite weapon in the game was the E-11 Rifle. It’s understandable he doesn’t come with one and only fitting that he should have to kill one of my Stormtrooper figures and take theirs.

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And then there’s the 3-D Play Scene! Yes, if you carefully follow the instructions, the cardback will fold out into this little display area with a landing bay and an Imperial Shuttle. Look, it’s a cool concept and pretty ambitious for a package that is just a cardback. It’s also a concept that Hasbro has made better use of since with boxed figures and vehicles. In practice, it’s not all that impressive, but I give Hasbro major points for the effort.

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I picked up Kyle a couple months back at a toy show for a fiver, along with some other POTF2 era EU figures, all of which I’ll try to get to over the course of the coming weeks. Katarn later got an updated figure as part of a Comic Pack, which I probably would have picked up if it paired him with Jan Ors, as opposed to comic book adversary, Yuuzhan Vong. In hindsight, I probably let my bitterness over the lack of a Jan Ors figure overwhelm me on that decision, and I wouldn’t mind having a better version of Katarn in my collection. I’ll have to keep an eye open for him on the Ebays. But seriously, Hasbro, where the hell is Jan Ors?