Kenner Aliens: Gorilla Alien by NECA

Yes, Gorilla Alien, my friends. What more of an introduction do you need to make you want to venture forward with today’s review? NECA went all the way back to Kenner’s Aliens figures from the 90’s and worked their magic with some of those wacky designs to bring us this spectacular wave. If you want the full preamble, I’ll refer you back to my look at the Mantis Alien from last month. On the other hand, if you’re like me and can’t wait to have a look at this bad boy, then let’s get started…

Oh, shit. I got a little ahead of myself and opened this guy up before taking the packaged shot. Well, can you blame me? I tried to put him back on his tray, but I have no idea how they had this huge figure folded up to fit in there. At least you can still enjoy that rad artwork and there’s still some lovely plastic fumes left for me to snort. Check out how they re-worked the NECA logo to match the old Kenner logo on the bottom right hand corner. Cool!

And just check this fellow out! Kenner’s line was all about coming up with different cross-species of Xenomorphs and the name of this guy says it all. Now, unlike the Mantis Alien, the host animal on which this Xenomorph is based isn’t quite as apparent. Nope, nothing really about this guy screams Gorilla to me, but that’s OK. He’s still a bigger, beefier Xeno, and he’s got plenty of unique design elements. Just check out those pronounced tubular nodes coming off of his forearms as well as a triple-spiked tail. Also, check out all the beautiful work they put into his claws! While the snazzy translucent green plastic of Mantis makes that figure stand out a little more, there’s no denying that this one is just as much a work of art.

Yup, no matter how many of NECA’s Xenos I open, I never tire of taking in all that incredible detail that they sculpt into these bodies. Every little element of HR Giger’s infamous bio-tech design comes alive in this plastic and all of it is picked out by sumptuous blue paint wash, which invokes the crazy colors of the original toy and comic, while still managing to stay grounded in the realism of NECA’s re-imagining. Damn, I just adore the coloring on this Xeno! In addition to the black and blue deco, you get some silver highlights here and there.

And of all that isn’t enough to make you Xeno-Fans cream your jeans, just check out the head on this sexy beast! Yes, I called him sexy, because look at it! The contours are beautiful and there’s a wonderful contrast between the smooth dome and the intricate bits of the lower head and jaw. I really dig how the head sweeps up at the end and crowns with four prongs, giving him a powerful, regal look. Naturally, the mouth opens up and you can pull out the secondary set of jaws within. All this is great stuff, but rather than rest on their laurels, NECA included a second dome, offering another display option. But before I swap them, let’s take this one off and see what’s going on under the hood.

Nightmare fuel! Removing the stock dome reveals a very ape-like skull with tubes protruding from its empty eye sockets. The skull stretches back the full length of the head and it is magnificently painted. By the way, did you know that NECA just released a life-size foam Xenomorph skull? It’s huge and almost $300, and I hate the fact that I would have nowhere to display it if I bought it. Anyway… the alternate dome is a clear, somewhat smokey plastic.

Popping it on gives you a nice homage to the Big Chap from the original Alien film. It’s a nice tease, as you can just barely make out the details inside. I should point out that while I stuck with the black dome for most of the pictures, that shouldn’t be taken as any indication that its my favorite of the two. Truth be told, I haven’t decided which one to display the figure with yet, and in the end I’ll probably just buy a second so I don’t have to decide.

The articulation here is everything I’ve come to expect out of my NECA Xenos. You get rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, and ankles. The legs are double jointed, there are swivels in the biceps and at the hips. There’s a ball joint in the chest and another in the neck. The tail is made of the usual bendy plastic, presumably with a wire in it so that it can hold whatever position you put it in. He’s a pretty well balanced figure and I was able to get him to hold a lot of neat poses, but you can always rely on using the tail to prop him up if you have to.

In case you’re still not convinced that you need this figure, NECA also threw in a facehugger painted to match this guy and a mini comic book showcasing this beast in action on the infested jungle planet of Zeevan.

I feel as if the Gorilla Alien is one of those cases where I could have just posted a bunch of pictures followed by the command, “BUY IT!” While I love gassing on about NECA’s beautiful Xenos, the truth is that with how beautiful this figure is, he practically reviews himself. Keep in mind, I was barely aware of Kenner’s Aliens toys back in the 90s, so nothing about my love for this figure is being driven by nostalgia. It’s all about the gorgeous workmanship that NECA put into him. And at about the price of one of Hasbro’s 6-inch Black Series figures, you’re getting a lot more craftsmanship for your toy buying dollars.

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Kenner Aliens: Mantis Alien by NECA

As most toy collectors know, Kenner and the Alien franchise go way back to 1979 when Kenner attempted to produce a line of Star Wars-style figures for the original Alien move, but backed out due to some parental uproar over the large Big Chap figure they released. Fast forward to the 90’s, a Golden Era, where parents stopped caring about being outraged over R-Rated movie toys. Cartoony versions of RoboCops, Predators, and Aliens were all over the toy shelves and Kenner finally had their way with Aliens. Fast forward again to now and we find that NECA is incorporating some of those Kenner Aliens designs into their own insanely popular Aliens figures. And that brings us to today’s figure… The Mantis Alien!

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Kenner’s Aliens line debuted a little too late for me. I was off at college believing that learning was good and toys were dumb, little aware that in a few years I’d be plunging head first into buying toys again. The line took advantage of the idea that Xenomorphs could spring from all sorts of different hosts and the result was a delightfully diverse collection of Aliens cross-bred with various beasts. Exactly how a Xeno springs out of an insect, I have no idea. Even the mini-comic included in the package doesn’t divulge these answers. Maybe they’re from a species of giant Space Mantis? Either way, I’m not going to argue when the results are this amazing. As always, the Aliens figures come in sealed clamshells, but there’s a few things to point out here. First, it comes with a mini-comic and a Chest Burster. Second, the artwork on the insert is delightfully colorful. Finally, don’t let the size of the package fool you, because when this thing is unfolded in all its glory, it’s huge! And so without further ado, I’m going to razor this baby open, huff some glorious plastic fumes, and we’ll check this guy out.

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OK, I’m going to try really hard not to go into full on hyperbole mode here, but I am so absolutely gobsmacked by this figure that it’s going to be hard not to gush like crazy. I mean, I often refer to the wizards at NECA as fine craftsman, but holy hell if this figure isn’t an absolute work of art then I don’t know what is. I’m not one to get all weak in the knees at the sight of translucent plastic in my toys, but the marrying of regular plastic and the green translucent stuff on this figure is sheer poetry. It looks absolutely stunning in person. As for the design? Well it’s sheer nightmare fuel. Regular Xenos are bad enough, but this guy is just down right terrifying.

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Part of that comes from the fact that adding bug parts makes anything creepier. Look at the tail and stinger on this thing! The detail work in the sculpt is magnificent and when you couple that with the silver and black paint, the translucent plastic, and that brown sting, it’s just totally over the top.

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What also makes this Xeno all the more terrifying is that it’s elongated mantis arms and jumping legs means that if this thing wants you, you’re screwed. I imagine this guy is a quadruped, but he can also stand up on his haunches and use those extended arms to do some horrific damage. Standing up, we can also get a better look at his anatomy. The bulk of his body is comprised of that translucent plastic while the feet, forearms and undercarriage are fortified with silver Alien-style exoskeleton. The barbs on those claws are particularly fierce. This thing probably doesn’t even need to grab its pray, it can just embed them on those spiked mitts of his. And just when you think things weren’t bad enough… let’s check out that head sculpt…

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Sweet Jesus have mercy! He’s both breathtaking and hideous at the same time… even by Xenomorph standards. I have no words for how awesome this head is, but I’ll at least mention that I’m in love with that silver, barbed cranium. Also, check out those nasty teeth and black gums. And yes, if you were wondering, there is indeed a secondary mouth in there that extends out. And much to my delight, it’s cast in translucent plastic!

 

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I don’t even know where to begin when talking articulation. This thing is loaded with points. The arms have rotating hinges in the shoulders, double rotating hinges in that first elbow, another rotating hinge at the next joint, another one at the wrist, and finally one more at the pincer. The legs have rotating hinges at the hips, double hinges at the first knee, rotating hinges at the next joint down, and finally another at the ankles. There’s a ball joint in the torso, another in the neck, the jaw is hinged, and the secondary mouth can be pulled out. I’d also like to point out that not once did I have to use a figure stand to get this fella to do what I wanted. He has a remarkable balance for such lanky design and his joints can hold his weight surprisingly well.

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As already mentioned, you get a couple of cool extras in the package. The first is a cool mini-comic that showcases the Mantis Alien battling some marines. The second is a little Chest Burster with a bendy tail and OMG, LOOK AT HIS ADORABLE LITTLE ARMS!!! He looks like he’s begging for a treat!

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Back when NECA revealed the first Kenner-style Aliens, I was almost tempted to take a pass. I have absolutely no nostalgia for the Kenner line. But knowing that it was NECA and seeing as how I already collect their Aliens line, I took the plunge and I’m so thankful that I did. The Mantis Alien is impressive in every imaginable way and he’s easily one of the most amazing looking figures that I’ve opened in recent memory. I’m seriously considering picking up a couple more of these simply because it’s not every day you can get a figure this awesome for about $22. And you know what else is awesome? He came with a friend. And hopefully next week I’ll be able to make the time to open up the Kenner-style Gorilla Alien!

Aliens: Space Marine Lt. Ripley (Kenner Version) by NECA

Kenner’s line of Aliens figures defies all sense and logic by its very existence. It was originally inspired by the planned cartoon series Aliens Operation, Yes, a cartoon based on an R-rated film franchise. The cartoon was scrapped, but the figures survived and came out under the name Aliens thus becoming a line of figures directly based on an R-rated movie that was at that point some six years old. Craziness! Nonetheless it was a fun and wildly creative line that was sadly released at a time when I had zero interest in collecting toys. Nonetheless, when NECA decided to celebrate Alien Day on 4/26 and release a Kenner-inspired repaint of their Aliens Lt Ripley figure, I was definitely on board.

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Ripley was exclusive to Toys R Us and GoHastings and sold out really fast online, but eventually came back into stock at TRU. The figure comes in NECA’s traditional sealed blister pack, and while the Aliens title up at the top is the same as what we saw with NECA’s Aliens line, the rest of the package art has been re-branded to reflect the Kenner animated look, complete with a brand new insert and a “cardback” that imitates the Kenner line. It’s a fun and colorful package and in this case I’m glad I wound up with two, because one of them is staying in the package and going right up on my wall.

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If you own NECA’s original release of Ripley from Aliens, then the sculpt should be instantly familiar to you. This is a straight repaint to the Kenner colors with the ammo strap reversed and an added neckerchief. Keep in mind, that’s not a criticism. For starters, the original release of this figure is both excellent and a tough item to get anywhere near the original price point. Secondly, it’s amazing how well this homage works with just a fresh coat of paint. When I look at it, I don’t see the repaint, just a fully realized Kenner-style figure.

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The new coloring includes the bright yellow shit-kickers, darker blue pants, the maroon top and tan neckerchief. The ammo strap is black with orange cartridges. The paint is all very clean, right down to the black watch on her left wrist. For a 90’s line, the coloring here isn’t as obnoxious as one might expect. In fact, the only thing that’s really out of the ordinary are her bright yellow boots and I still think they look great.

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The portrait on this figure was pretty solid to begin with and it not only still looks great, but I’m surprised how well it works on this homage. I particularly love what they did with the hair sculpt. On the downside, this figure uses flesh toned plastic, rather than paint, so you do get a bit of the waxy finish. Granted, it looks a lot more shiny under the studio lights than it does most of the time. Aw hell, she’s lugging a big gun around, running around hunting Xenomorphs, I’ve got to imagine Ripley’s going to be perspiring a bit.

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Speaking of running around, Ripley features some solid articulation. You get rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, and knees. The ankles are hinged and have lateral rockers, there’s a ball joint just above the waist, and another in the neck. Not bad!

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Ripley comes with one accessory and that’s her Smartgun. I don’t have a lot of the Colonial Marines figures, so this is my first encounter with this accessory and I like it a lot. It’s a beautifully intricate sculpt and while it looks like it would be unwieldy and difficult to work with, the truth is it’s got so many grab points that I was able to have a lot of fun with it.

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The only downside of this figure is that the availability was spotty at release because of quick sell outs leading to a run on Ebay and doubling the price of the figure. But now all that has settled down, and at the time I’m posting this Feature, Ripley is available on TRU’s website for the original $24.99. Obviously, this figure is aimed at the 90’s kids who have nostalgia for the original toy line, but I’m proof positive that the figure’s appeal can transcend that. Seeing as I don’t own the original release of Aliens Ripley, I’m very happy to have this mold on my shelf and the coloring just makes her all the more special.

Vintage Vault: Star Wars Hoth Rebels by Kenner, Part 3

It’s day three of vintage Kenner Star Wars goodness. In case you’re just joining us, these features were inspired by the fact that I got a box of some of my old Star Wars figures shipped down to my from my brother. I’ve been going through them and matching up weapons and cleaning them up. Some of them are in pretty poor shape, while others aren’t half bad at all. To kick things off, I decided to focus on figures from my absolute favorite scene in any of the Star Wars films: The Battle of Hoth. Today we’re going to check out the unsung heroes of that battle, Unnamed Rebel Commander and Unnamed Rebel Trooper!

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Oddly enough, I have no memory of actually getting these figures, which leads me to believe they came to me through one of two great Christmas winfalls of Star Wars figures. Yes, there were two Christmases where I gave “Santa” a list of figures I was missing and my poor parents had to go hunt them all down.

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The Rebel Commander is a really cool figure, but I don’t think I was all that keen on him back in the day. Nonetheless, he got used a lot. My Falcon spent a great deal of time marooned on Hoth and the Rebels took up using it as a base of operations. Rebel Commander set up shop in the back and became a permanent fixture. I remember that I eventually adopted the name Cliff for him because his mustache made me think he was Cliff Clavin from Cheers. Of course it wasn’t until much, much later that I learned John Ratzenberger actually played a Rebel on Hoth. Was this figure supposed to be Bren Derlin? If not, that was some crazy coincidence!

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And then there’s the Trooper. Man, I wanted to build a squad of these so bad. Even as a kid, I loved the idea of having troop builders, but my parents sure didn’t. Getting them to understand that I needed multiple Stormtroopers and Rebels for my battles never did fly. All my attempts were met with, “No, you have this guy already. Get someone you don’t have!” How the hell did they always know? Anyway, I was a tricky little snot and would ask my grandparents for figures that I wanted multiples of and every now and again it worked. Still, I don’t think I ever had more than one Rebel Trooper. Now that I have my own monies and a little something called Ebay, maybe I’ll grab another couple of these guys.

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It’s interesting to look at my old toys from a toy collector perspective. I never noticed until looking at these figures now that there was a wee bit of shared sculpting going on. The vests, the belt the pants, there’s a lot of similarities here with enough unique detail and paint to make it work wonderfully. At 9-years old I certainly never gave it a second thought. Of course, the Commander is smart enough to know that you’re less likely to be shot by wearing mostly white on an Ice Planet (they didn’t make him a Commander for nothing) while his poor Troopers in their tan vests are getting picked off by snipers left and right. In retrospect, I think it’s a bit odd that the Commander came with a backpack and the regular Trooper didn’t. Of course, Kenner remedied that with an accessory pack a little later on.

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While I probably didn’t give it much thought back in the day, I find the weapon choices for these two a bit odd. The Commander comes with the same carbine that Hoth Luke came with and the Rebel Trooper came with a pistol that would be recycled for many of the Bespin figures. It seems like the Troopers should have had the rifles and the handgun should have been given to the Commander. Of course, the flipside to that was Kenner giving the Snowtroopers giant rifles when they should have just had E-11 Blasters. There’s just no pleasing me, I guess.

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And that’s pretty much the extent of Kenner’s Hoth figures on the Rebel side. Yeah, they also did the other Medical Droid, RX-7, but sadly he wasn’t in the box. Maybe I’ll replace him later on down the road. Having this team of figures together again already has me on the hunt for one of the three Hoth Playsets because I’d really love to get these old friends up and on display somewhere. One thing’s for certain, getting this box of old figures has really kindled a fire under my somewhat misplaced love for Star Wars toys, so don’t be surprised to see more of it featured around here in the weeks ahead.

Vintage Vault: Star Wars Hoth Rebels by Kenner, Part 2

It’s Saturday, It’s July, I’m in Florida and it’s a thousand degrees here. What better way to cool off than by looking at more Hoth figures? Today I’m going to check out some more shivering members of the Rebel Alliance as they try to hide out from the Empire on another one of those delightful sci-fi planets that can only support one climate zone. So bundle up and set your thermostat for Kenner Vintage Goodness! I don’t even know what that means. Let’s just look at the figures…

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Yesterday, I looked at Han and Luke and their trusty Tauntaun. Today we’re going to check out Princess Leia and my favorite medical droid, 2-1B. I was originally going to wrap this up today by looking at four figures, but I went long and had to cut it down to two. Gassing on about nostalgia will do that to me. We’re going to start with 2-1B because I have a bewilderingly strong attachment to this figure. Get your blankys and milky babas, kiddies, it’s story time!

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It was a fine day in 1981 (maybe 1982) and I went along with my Dad downtown to Bloomfield Ave in NJ to do some shopping. When we were done with what he had to do he relented to my endless pleading and we went to Big Apple Toys. BAT was a two-story independent toy store back at a time when such things still existed. It wasn’t a huge place. It was right there on the downtown drag alongside a pharmacy and other assorted other storefronts. Once inside, my eyes were immediately drawn to a set of figures from The Empire Strikes Back! They were fanned out in a glass display counter, which was usually reserved for a big Smurf Village setup. Now, I’m sure I caught one or two ESB figures on the pegs prior to then, but this was the first time I’d seen so many and all spread out like that. It was amazing. I pushed my nose up against the glass as the saliva pooled up in the corner of my mouth. I explained to my Dad between heaves of excitement what this find meant and he saw where it was going. He said he’d buy me one. Gah! I had to choose. Which one? Which one? Yup, I went for 21-f’cking-B!

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Now, this was an odd choice to be sure. Truth be told, as vivid as this memory is, I cannot place it in proper context. Had I seen the movie yet? I just don’t know. I’m guessing not, because if I had why the hell would I pick 21-B? Well, I was always a big fan of the droids and I loved the look of this guy from the moment I saw him. Those two factors alone were enough to make me pick him out. Of course, every new Star Wars figure I got automatically evolved into one of the most important characters at playtime. 21-B became a permanent resident of the Falcon so he was always on hand to patch up the gang when they needed it. And they needed it a lot, because my Stormtroopers could actually hit what they were shooting at from time to time.

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From the Left: POTF2; Original; 30th Anniversary Collection

I still love this figure, even though there have been arguably better versions since. For the time, he was a really good treatment of the um… character? Did we even see his legs in the movie? The cool thing about 2-1B is that he was like a real robot because there was no way it was a suit. He had real robot arms and that clear section in the middle that said, “look, it’s not a robot suit!” But I think the real reason I like this figure so much is because he still remains so unique. He has a hose coming out of his face and plugged into his side and that clear middle is like nothing on any Star Wars figure before or since. He even came with a medical poking stick, that I like to pretend was actually some kind of laser gun. 2-1B is just plain awesome and in retrospect I don’t know how he ever escaped my marauding Sheltie. His thin limbs and that hose were just the kind of thing that she liked to tear into pieces.

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And that brings us to Princess Leia in her Hoth Outfit. I also remember the day I got her. I picked her off one of the pegs because she was one of the last Hoth figures I needed. I can remember feeling slightly embarrassed for buying her because she was a girl. That was my 9-year old mentality and it’s that kind of memory that probably keeps most brand managers from making a lot of female figures these days. This Leia is a pretty refreshing figure to look back on because  nowadays female action figures are usually all tits and ass, but here was a female figure that wasn’t sexualized at all. She’s demure, she’s got a feminine color palate, and she’s got a hint of curves under all that cold weather padding, but in the end it’s just another figure of one of our intrepid Rebel heroes. Ok, she has a tiny bit of a tushie on her, but hey, those Kenner designers had to have some fun, amiright?

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Vintage Collection Leia Vs The Kenner Original

As with Luke and Han, I really love the detail on this figure. Her entire outfit has a quilted sculpt and she has her little rank or ID bar or whatever the hell that thing is on the left side of her chest. I don’t think it’s really worth talking about likenesses here, but they did do a nice job sculpting her hair. The paint on mine is a little rough in a few spots. One of her eyebrows is partially rubbed off. One of the nice things about some of the Hoth figures is when the paint rubbed on their boots it just looked like snow. It’s also worth mentioning that Hoth Leia came with a blaster, but sadly I don’t have it anymore.

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And that adds two more figures to this Kenner Hoth Retrospective, and I’m not done yet. Tomorrow I’ll be back to wrap this up with a look at the Hoth Rebel Commander and the Hoth Rebel Trooper!

Vintage Vault: Star Wars Hoth Rebels by Kenner, Part 1

While it hasn’t been opened since April of last year, The Vintage Vault used to be a regular facet of FFZ. The moniker generally denotes a feature where I drag out something from the 70’s or 80’s. Traditionally, a lot of the source material was fueled by my late night drunken Ebay antics and it’s proven to be a fun way to pad things out when I’m low on new receivings. Well, I’m not really low on new stuff to look at now, but I did recently get a box shipped up to me from my brother in NJ which contained some old friends, including a bunch of Kenner’s Star Wars figures. I had actually written this stuff off as lost when I made the move from NJ to Florida back in 1995. Looks like the boxes never made it onto the truck and they were safe and sound all along. I’m going to parse this stuff out a little at a time and today we’re starting out with some figures based on my favorite part of all of Star Wars: The Battle of Hoth! Let’s check out Luke Skywalker and Han Solo in their Hoth Outfits and the Tauntaun!

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Why do I dig The Battle of Hoth so much? Because Hoth is the only real example of a pitched ground battle that we get in the Original Trilogy. There are trenches and battlements, artillery and iconic vehicles. It’s all so exciting and gritty and awesome. Plus, Luke getting lost and Han going to rescue him is a wonderful device to establish what close friends these two characters had become since the end of A New Hope. It’s just great story telling. Hoth was also a pretty big step for the Kenner Star Wars line because it further established the practice of selling multiple versions of a single character just because they changed their clothes. Sure, we already had Luke and X-Wing Luke, but now we had Hoth Luke, Hoth Han, Hoth Leia, and it went on and on. It was a beautiful way to milk parents for more money by making them by the same characters over and over again.

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Han Solo in his Hoth outfit is probably one of the most iconic figures in the line for me. That’s an odd thing to say, since I had been collecting Star Wars figures since the original 12. Nonetheless, as a kid I played with this figure a lot and often he was my “go to” Han. I don’t remember why that was the case, but maybe it was because the dog ate my original Han figure. My Sheltie had an addiction to chewing on Star Wars figures and I used to drive my parents nuts by having to replace them because they were decapitated or mangled in some way.

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Needless to say, I love everything about this figure. It recreates Han’s rugged Hoth gear quite well from the quilting on the leggings to the pockets on the jacket. The BLUE jacket. BECAUSE HAN’S HOTH JACKET WA BLUE, RIGHT? The way they did the hood with the goggles sculpted on top of his helmet was really cool too. I especially loved the fact that his right arm slightly bent like the one on the original Han figure. Someone at Kenner understood that Han should be perpetually holding his gun like he’s about to shoot from the hip. That’s awesome.

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And for the love of God, he’s got a functional holster! It’s a 3 ¾” action figure from 1980 with a functional holster!!! Granted, it didn’t quite work the way it was supposed to, but hey, it definitely held his pistol and that was good enough for me. Ahh, Hoth Han Solo… I love ya, buddy. You were a big part of why a ridiculously disproportionate number of my play scenarios involved fighting Imperials on really cold planets.

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Moving on to Hoth Luke and holy crap, this is still one great looking figure. I never had the attachment to this version of Luke like I did Hoth Han, but looking at him now, it’s hard for me to understand why that was the case. There’s a lot of companies these days trying to release dumbed down sculpts and trying to mimic the “retro” style, but look at this figure and tell me that this sculpt isn’t packed with detail. He’s got all the quilting on his sleeves and jacket, the bands wrapping his boots, the binoculars around his neck and equipment on his belt. I also dig that his goggles are down around his neck to differentiate him a bit from Han. This figure is downright awesome! Hell, even the scaling is right, as Luke is a little shorter than Han.

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The one thing I never quite understood about Hoth Luke was his gun. Kenner gave him a sort of carbine, unlike anything he ever used in the movie. It didn’t bother me so much as a kid, because I liked that it had a strap and you could sling it across his shoulder. I also thought it odd that they didn’t give him a lightsaber, since he made such prominent and memorable use of it in the Wampa Cave. Speaking of Wampas, I was really hoping the Wampa figure was going to be in this box somewhere, but no such luck. Dammit, I’m going to have to go buy a Kenner Wampa on Ebay now, aren’t I?

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And then there’s the Tauntaun. I can remember getting this figure and freaking out over how cool it was. Admittedly, that seems kind of silly now, but steeds weren’t a common thing in the original Kenner Star Wars line. We had a Dewback, but we never got a Bantha. Besides, Han and Luke riding the Tauntauns is such an iconic image that you just had to have one for the figures. Besides, it’s still a really admirable sculpt and a great looking toy. Mine is the original solid belly version and of course he’s missing his bit and reins, but otherwise in fairly good condition. At one point, I owned two of these, but the damn dog chewed the hands and feet off of one. I used to lay it somewhere in my battlefield and pretend it was dead and rotting. I was a messed up kid.

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The Tauntaun makes use of the trapped door gimmick so that the limited articulation figures could still mount him. It’s the same design used for the old Dewback. The saddle features sculpted fake legs on the sides to give you the illusion that the figure is straddling the beast. It’s not terribly convincing, but who cares? The figures still look great riding this thing.

And, I’m way over my limit, so I’ve got to break here. I’m a harsh editor. Tomorrow I’ll be back and we’ll check out some more of Kenner’s Rebel Alliance dressed in snuggly warm clothes.

Star Wars: Jabba the Hutt’s Musical Extravaganza, Part 3: Jabba’s Dancers!

Today I’m going to wrap up the weekend with a look at Jabba’s Dancers, but before we get to the ladies, there’s one more Special Edition band member to cover… Introducing, Rappertunie on the growdi!

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Unlike the rest of the figures in these features, Rappertunie was released later on in Hasbro’s Saga line and he was single carded with his instrument. While far more cartoony than Barquin and Doda, I still like this guy a lot. I think he fits the overall Star Wars creature aesthetic a lot more than Joh Yowza does. That may be because he was an actual puppet and not an awkward CGI model. At at a time when Hasbro was dishing out a lot of sub-par figures, this guy and his elaborate instrument felt like an amazing value. He’s also pretty benign to the whole “Jedi Rocks” scene. In fact, he’s probably the lowest profile member of the band. I’d say he needs a better agent, but his career was no doubt better off not being associated with that train wreck of a performance.

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The figure features the standard 5-points of articulation, although Rappertunie is designed with pretty much one thing in mind and that’s sitting on his instrument and playing it. Unless you happen to have a 3 3/4’” scale bean bag chair and rack of ribs. You could probably make something happen with that. Hasbro went all out on this Rappertunie’s sculpt and the paintwork is superb as well. The instrument looks like a glorious kind of steampunk invention and there’s a detachable hose running from the instrument to the base.

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And now we can move on to the dancing girls: Rystall, Greeata, and Lyn Me. These ladies were released as part of the Power of the Force 2 line in what was commonly referred to as a Cinema Scene pack. It was window boxed with the three figures standing against an illustrated backdrop from the film. I loved these packs and I’ve owned probably three or four of this one over the years. It’s just one of those items that come and go out of my collection over and over again because it’s so damn common and cheap. Let’s look at them each in turn.

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With bright red hair, purple spots, and elephant feet, Rystall is one crazy looking chick. Nonetheless, Rule 34 tells me that there is someone, somewhere whacking it to an image of her. And judging by the way Boba Fett was flirting with her in the movie, I’m guessing I just found that someone. Rystall features nice coloring and a decent sculpt. The spotting on her skin is neat and reminds me of the markings of a Trill. Wiki nonsense tells me that Rystall’s entire family was a slave owned by an official in the Black Sun organization until Lando set them free in a game of cards. Because no matter how big the Universe is and how insignificant the character, everyone in Star Wars has to be connected to another in some way, right?

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Next up is Greeata, the Rodian dancer. She easily has the best and most complex sculpt of the three dancers. Not only did Hasbro give her a really cool head sculpt, but they textured her entire body with creepy Rodian skin. They also did a particularly nice job with her outfit, or at least what little there is of it. In addition to the sash and bikini top, you get her bracelets, anklets, and necklace all impressively recreated for a figure from this time. You also have to love that mohawk that runs all the way down her back. Having read her backstory, I’m genuinely surprised to find that Greeata was not Greedo’s sister. That sounds like something the Expanded Universe couldn’t help itself from doing.

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Last of is Lyn Me who is the Twi’lek. This figure should have been my favorite of the bunch, because I have a thing for Twi’lek slave dancers. See above Rule 34. Unfortunately, she comes out at the bottom of the trio for me. She looks rather stocky and it’s really hard to get her to stand without bending her over a bit. I appreciate that the wraps that make up her costume are all part of the sculpt, but the paint is a little sloppy. The head sculpt is Ok, but I think it could have been better. Lyn Me had some sort of crush on Boba Fett and followed him to Tatooine. I wonder what she thought of him macking on Rystall?

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All in all, these dancers are pretty cool figures, although they’re fun factor is curtailed by the fact that their all a bit pre-posed. With their arms held straight and each one tossing their hip, there’s little you can do with them other than stand them in a line in your Jabba display in the manner in which they were packaged. Even the standard 5-points of articulation and added waist swivels don’t help that much. Still they serve as some decent window dressing.

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Of course, even after three days and ten figures, I’m still not done yet. Jabba was quite the patron of the arts and there are more musicians to cover. Rest assured I’ll be revisiting this series in the future, as I’ve yet to touch on the percussion section of Jabba’s orchestra and I’ll probably throw in the POTF2 Oola for good measure. I should be getting a couple of boxes of my old stuff shipped from my brother in a few weeks that may or may not contain a cornucopia of Star Wars figures. It’ll be kind of nice to see more Star Wars features around here.

Star Wars: Jabba the Hutt’s Musical Extravaganza, Part 2: The Rest of the Band!

Yesterday, I got swept away in nostalgia looking at the POTF2 versions of The Max Rebo band. Today, I spit in the face of nostalgia with a look at the extended members of the band from that dreaded Special Edition of Return of the Jedi. A lot of people will tell you that Greedo shooting first is the worst change Lucas made to these movies. Now, I agree that change profoundly altered a scene that commented deeply on Han Solo’s character. But to be honest, I didn’t even notice the change when I first saw it. What I couldn’t help but notice was a shitty cartoon character shoved in my face in the new song and dance number added to the Jabba’s Palace scene in Jedi. The whole thing felt like an out of place gag in what was originally an incredibly tense and scary act of the movie. Nevertheless, today I present you with… Barquin D’an, Doda Bodonawieedo, and Joh Yowza.

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As we saw yesterday, in the late 90’s Hasbro took a cue from The Blues Brothers and embarked on a mission to get the band back together. But rather than do it in one clean and simple three-pack like Kenner did back in the day, they split them up into three separate 2-packs. If you wanted the Rebo Band, you had to buy the Special Edition band members as well. Why? Because, f’ck you! And because money. Yes, they were also available much later as a big box set Walmart exclusive, but we’re talking POTF2 here, peeps! Star Wars figures were making a huge comeback and dammit, collectors wanted their Rebo Band even if it meant sucking down the Special Edition dudes too. The breakdown of the two-packs went like this: Max Rebo came with the Bith, Barquin D’an; Droopy McCool came with the Rodian, Doda Bodonawieedo, and Sy Snoodles came with that insufferable piece of CGI’d shit, Joh Yowza. God, I hate that I know his name. Let’s take them in order…

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First off is Baquin D’an. I’ve got no problem with this guy. He’s just a Bith musician blowing on his kloo horn. I once had the entire set of Creature Cantina Bith figures from the Modal Nodes that came in a really cool collector’s tin. I often wish I still had those, so getting this figure in my collection makes me happy. Sure, he’s partly responsible for playing the intro to the shameless spectacle “Jedi Rocks” but I’m not going to blame him for that because I like him. Did you know that Bith music is called Jizz? Now you do. You’re welcome.

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Baquin is a pretty simple figure but I love him because he can fit in all sorts of displays. He has the usual 5-points of articulation, plus a waist swivel, and while he is pre-posed to be playing his horn, if you remove it you can make it look like he’s just holding a drink and socializing after the gig. He just makes for great alien rabble filler in any display you want to set up. The kloo horn is a pretty cool accessory and the mouth piece fits right into Baquin’s tiny little mouth hole. Did I mention their music is called Jizz? Once again, you’re welcome!

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Next up is Doda Bodonawieedo, Baquin’s co-conspirator. I ain’t gonna lie, I dig this figure a lot too. He’s a demure Rodian wearing an orange tunic and for the time, he’s a pretty good sculpt. Doda shares the same articulation as Baquin right down to the waist swivel, although his tunic prevents his hip joints from doing him any good. Also, like Baquin, Doda is pre-posed to play his instrument, the sliterhorn, and if you take it away he also looks like he could be mingling at a party with a drink in his hand. I wish I still had those Cantina sets, they came with drink glasses. God, somebody keep me off of Ebay!

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And then there’s Joh Yowza. F’ck this guy. I really liked the original “Lepti Nek” tune that the Rebo band played before Lucas butchered the scene. I actually had it on vinyl. It was a forty-five and I think I recall it having the original Ewok Celebration song on the flipside. I’m not joking! I used to get all hopped up on Pixie Sticks and rock out to that. Ahh… the 80’s! And then this guy came along, pushed Sy Snoodles out of the limelight and took a shit right in our ears. Even the figure is a travesty. This guy looks out of place even in a room of puppets and freaks. Did you know that his race is called Yuzzum, they are indigenous to Endor, and they were supposed to be featured in the movie alongside the Ewoks? At least we were spared that. I guess things could have been worse.

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Joh Yowza is going right into the deepest depths of one of my darkest action figure totes and then possibly buried in the back yard. He’s a crappy looking figure based on an abomination of an idea. Better yet, when I get a new Rancor, I’m going to put Yowza in its mouth. The other two, Baquin and Doda, are actually pretty cool figures and I have no problem with them chilling in the back of my Rebo Band display providing some tasteful back up for the Club Remix of Lepti Nek that will most assuredly be playing in my Jabba Palace display.

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Tomorrow, I’ve got one more Special Edition band member to look at and then we’ll wrap things up with a peek at Jabba’s Dancers.

Star Wars: Jabba the Hutt’s Musical Extravaganza, Part 1: The Max Rebo Band!

I realize that I have a lot of new stuff that I should be getting to. I’ve got Marvel Legends and Kotobukiya and even a Hot Toys figure I’ve yet to feature. But I felt like going off the reservation for the rest of the week. I promise next week will be all new releases. In the meantime, join me for a three-parter weekend that will  take us through (almost) all the players in the Musical Extravaganza Show that occurs in Jabba the Hutt’s palace on any given night. These features are sponsored by a fellow collector who was giving up a lot of ten figures at a price I just couldn’t refuse. Let’s kick it off today with The Max Rebo Band.

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Max Rebo, Sy Snoodles, and Droopy McCool! These are not the Kenner originals, but rather from the late 90’s Power of the Force 2 two-packs that were associated with the dreaded Special Edition release of Return of the Jedi. Nonetheless, I can still remember that day as a kid when I first saw the originals. I think it was at a Sears, but I clearly remember skittering off to the toy aisle to see what I could find on the pegs when I was confronted with one of the most a-typical Star Wars figure sets that I had ever set my little kid eyes upon. It was a window box with the entire Max Rebo band laid out inside. I couldn’t believe that there were actually figures of these guys, complete with microphones and everything. I immediately entered full-on pleading and begging mode and after promising to mow the lawn for the next three weeks straight and engage in all manners of other menial child labor, my Dad agreed to get them for me. Of course, those figures are long gone. Max Rebo was one the most prized targets of my kleptomaniac dog, and who the hell knows what become of the others. So let’s check out these POTF2 versions.

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Max Rebo! How many keyboard players get the whole band named after them? Rebo does! He’s just that good! Did you know his real name is Siiruulian Phantele and that he eventually joined the Rebel Alliance because they have the best food? Wiki says it so it must be true. What difference does it make? He’s a blue elephant wearing diapers that plays keyboard for an intergalactic crime boss. This figure appears to be quite close to the original Kenner mold, but the hands are a bit different and he’s got a large ring molded onto his belt to keep his diaper up. The paint is also a lot better here. Not only is that diaper painted, but the tips of his fingers are as well. He’s a really vibrant shade of blue and he has two little beady black eyes.

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I can remember how cool I thought it was that the figure came out of his keyboard, partly because you got to see what the rest of him looked like, and partly because I had him going on all sorts of adventures with my other Star Wars figures. On more than one occasion the Han Solo and The Millennium Falcon was hired to get Rebo and his band to their next gig and The Empire was determined to stop them because The Empire is evil and hates music. Amazingly enough, Rebo features the standard 5-points of articulation as most vintage Star Wars figures, although he’s definitely pre-posed with one thing in mind… jamming on that keyboard… or waving hello to people.

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Speaking of the keyboard, it’s one of the coolest Star Wars figure accessories ever. I can’t believe all the work that Kenner put into this thing. There’s never been anything else quite like it and this one appears to be pretty damn close to the Kenner original right down to the individual keys that can actually be pressed in. I think the paint apps on this new one are better. I don’t remember the silver fringe being painted on the original toy, but then it’s been a long time since I owned one.

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Moving on to Droopy McCool, this figure also strikes me as a nice compromise between the original Kenner release and something new and improved. He still features that same pre-pose mold for playing his chidinkalu horn. The horn is a removable accessory, but if you take it away from him, he just looks like he’s miming playing it, so there isn’t much point. I suppose you could put a rifle in his hands and make it look like he’s going to blow his own head off. Musicians sometimes do that. But that would be sad, let’s not do that to Droopy.

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Despite the pre-pose, the figure also features a sixth point of articulation, which is a swivel in the waist. It comes in handy for putting him in a half turn, depending on which side of Rebo’s organ you want him standing on. The biggest departure from the original Kenner figure is Droopy’s rather heavy handed paint wash to bring out all the creases in his flesh. At first I wasn’t too keen on it, but it’s grown on me, even if it isn’t terribly screen accurate.

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Last up is the lead vocalist Sy Snoodles. I like to think of her as the Debbie Harry of the Star Wars Universe. Her figure definitely got the biggest facelift from the original Kenner version and that results in some good and some bad. On the good side, her legs are more stable. I can still remember having trouble getting the Kenner figure to stand. This Sy has legit action figure legs and she stands just fine. Like Droopy, she also features the standard 5-points of articulation, plus an added waist swivel, which was a lot more than the original figure had. On the downside, she’s clearly based on the Special Edition CGI model, which gives her a more stylized and cartoony look and she’s also missing the feather from the original puppet. All in all, I still like the figure a lot, but the omission of her microphone really confuses me and pisses me off. And damn, those loose microphones go for crazy money on the Ebays. I really need someone to 3D print me one of those damn things.

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As far as action figures go, this is definitely an odd bunch. Clearly my love for this trio is fueled by nothing but hardcore nostalgia, but I don’t care because it’s so damn cool to have these characters in my collection again. The Rebo Band just may have been that first step where the Universe decided… Yup, every single damn character in the Star Wars movies is going ot get a figure. There was no turning back and that long journey has culminated in getting Bespin Ice Cream Maker Guy. But that’s a Feature for another day. A little while ago, I decided to start rebuilding my Jabba display with figures from all different series and this trio will certainly be a cornerstone of that display. The last release of Jabba and his throne is one of the few Star Wars figure sets that has been on display since the day I got it, and now I can finally start adding to it. Of course, it’s important to note that each of the Max Rebo band was bundled with one of the band’s extended members from the Special Edition and those are the figures that I’m going to look at tomorrow.

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?