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 found it to be an enjoyable but really weird movie, and 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.

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FigureFan’s Disappointments 2017, Part 1

Well, I hope everyone has been enjoying my Ten Favorites of 2017. There were a lot of items that came close to making the cut, but I tried to be good and stick as close to the self-imposed confines of my list as possible. And now it’s time to embark on the flip-side and look at my Ten Biggiest Disappointments of the year. I’m happy to say this list was a also difficult to assemble, but not because it was hard to whittle down, but rather it was tough to come up with ten acquisitions that really didn’t live up to my expectations. And that’s a good thing! So let’s kick off today with the first five…

Marvel Legends Astral Projection Doctor Strange: Hey, remember this turd? Generally speaking, 2017 was another fantastic year for Hasbro’s Marvel Legends line, but when you put out a lot of figures, at least a few of them are inevitably going to be crap. And this Doctor Strange variant was the cream of the crap. But this isn’t so much a case of a poorly made figure, indeed it’s a great sculpt, but rather a bad idea. Not only is it just a rehash of the regular Doctor Strange figure (FROM THE SAME GODDAMN WAVE!) cast in milky translucent plastic, but it was an obligatory purchase if you wanted the head for your Dormammu Build-A-Figure. And that’s what really earns this figure a spot on my List of Shame. If you’re going to toss this in as an extra in a three-pack or something, do what you gotta do, but don’t make him mandatory to complete a BAF. That’s just mean.

Star Wars Black Series Jawa by Hasbro: Just a reminder, that a figure doesn’t have to be bad to be on this list, just disappointing. And to be fair, I could say that Star Wars Black as a whole has been disappointing this year. It’s not that the figures are terrible, and yes there have been some great ones, but in general this line seems content to be average. It doesn’t feel like the “Collector’s Line” we were promised, but rather just a new scale set up to make idiots like me buy the characters all over again. The Jawa for me was a prime example of that. There’s just nothing here that hasn’t been done as well, if not better at a smaller scale. No tailored softgoods, a plastic robe that renders half the articulation useless, and he can’t even hold his guns properly. Need more? Well, this figure is also too small to justify this price point, it was really hard for me to get one, and in the end, it just wasn’t worth all the effort. If it weren’t for me trying to fill the Early Bird stand with the Original Twelve, I wouldn’t have bothered.

DC Multiverse: “The Dark Knight Returns” Batman and Robin: I’ll admit, I kind of feel like cheating by listing Multiverse figures in with my Disappointments. Truth be told, I didn’t have high expectations from this line at the time. But I was looking forward to getting these DKR figures on my shelf, only to be flabbergasted at how sub-par they turned out. Yes, flabbergasted! My monocle popped right out of my eye, as I exclaimed, “My word, what rubbish!” It’s hard to believe this is the same company that delivered so many great DC action figures in the past. This pair should have been a slam dunk, instead, they feel more like knock-offs. So much so, that I still haven’t bothered to complete this wave to build my goddamn Doomsday. Maybe next year.

Transformers Titans Return Murk & Octone by Hasbro: Just to prove that Titans Return wasn’t entirely made up of rainbows and kittens, here’s one that made my Disappointments List. 2017 was a stellar year for Deluxe Class Transformers, but maybe no so great for the Voyager Class figures. Figures like Broadside and Blitzwing made for solid robot modes, but their alt modes ran from somewhat lacking to downright terrible. And yet it was still pretty easy to single out Octone as the worst of the bunch. I was really looking forward to getting this guy in my collection, and I’ll still admit the robot mode is fine, but neither of his alt modes worked for me at all. Also, I hate what they had to do to his name. It’s OK, Hasbro, you’re still way ahead of the game for 2017.

And I do believe I’ll break for the day and tally up how much money I spend on these less than stellar purchases, some of which I regret and some I’d probably still buy just to have them in my collection. Join me again tomorrow as I round out this List of Disappointments and wrap up this week of lists.

 

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.

Star Wars Black: Jawa by Hasbro

I’m still trying to push through some extra content on Wednesdays for fear that I’ll be AWOL toward for the last week of the month when the crazy times arrive. Today I’m doubling up on some long overdue business with Hasbro’s Black Series. Now, if you’ve haven’t been keeping up, you should know that I’ve been peppering my last few Star Wars Black Series reviews with some of my vitriol about today’s figure, so let’s recap! 1) The Jawa never should have debuted on the 40th Anniversary vintage-style card. It made the demand too great and the distribution of that series seemed far worse than the regular boxed releases, at least in my area. 2) This should have been a two-pack, because I couldn’t see what Hasbro could possibly do to make a Jawa worth $20. That’s the reason I skipped Black Series Yoda. With that out of the way, here’s hoping the actual figure will be good enough to make up for it all. Spoiler… It isn’t.

Here he is on the card and it is a beautiful presentation! These over-sized vintage-style cards are fantastic sights to behold. If they were more readily available, if I was a focused Star Wars collector, and if I had the wall space, I could have seen myself relenting and buying a set to display in package. But that’s not me, and I’m in this for the loose figures themselves, so as pretty as it is, this package is going to be torn apart… right now.

Out of the box and standing on the shelf, this Jawa looks pretty good. The robes are sculpted quite nicely, complete with a fabric texture and frayed edges around the sleeves and bottoms. Even the bandoleer straps look great and he has the holster for his ion rifle, which I’ll come back to in a bit. On the downside, the sculpted robes negate his leg articulation. There are little slits up the sides, but they do nothing to help matters. There’s a sculpted seam running up the middle, which if sliced, might give him some better range of motion, but I’m not going to attempt that until I get another one of these little bastards. Also, I’m not a big fan of the sandy paint spray on the bottoms of the robes.

So, an obvious quibble here is that there are no softgoods and I think that was a big missed opportunity. Granted, they might not have looked as good as the sculpted robes, but considering this little guy is already way overpriced, put it in there and let us decide whether or not to use it. The Kenner cloth robed Jawa could be displayed with it or without it, and I’d argue it looked pretty good with its tiny cloak. If it works in that scale, there are no excuses for not trying it in this scale. You’re charging $20 for this little figure, Hasbro, you should have been throwing everything you could in here to give us a sense of value for the dollar. Hell, when you released these little fellas in the 3.75-inch scale, you usually tossed in a droid with them or released them as a two-pack.

Counting out the leg articulation (I’m not even going to bother, because it’s pointless), this little fellow still has rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists, as well as a ball joint in the waist and neck. So at least everything above the waist is useful. But even coming up with enough different poses for pictures was difficult. There just isn’t a lot you can do with him.

The Jawa comes with two weapons, I believe both are considered ion blasters: One is a blunderbuss design and the other is attached to a battery pack. I’ve always loved these weapons and Hasbro did a particularly nice job recreating them here. The one with the battery pack resembles a chibi Lee-Enfield Rifle right down to the little integral magazine and wood stock. It’s permanently attached to the battery pack with a cord and fits into the holster on the back of the belt. Unfortunately, the Jawa’s hands are not really sculpted to work well with either of these weapons. There’s no trigger finger to get through the trigger guard of the battery powered blaster and he can barely even hold them across his chest because the robes limit his arm movement.

For about five bucks less, I’d consider this Jawa a passable figure, but even then he’s got a lot working against him. Half the articulation is useless, no softgoods, and he can’t even really hold his weapons properly. I really like how Hasbro handled the smaller scale Jawas in the Legacy Collection. We actually got a couple different sculpts, and they knew enough to pack them either together or with a droid to make it worth the money. I’m still hoping Hasbro will do something similar with these guys, but as it stands now, I’m afraid this figure was ultimately an overpriced disappointment. And with that, I’m finally finished with my Black Series versions of Kenner’s “Original Twelve.” Unless you count the A New Hope version of Darth Vader, and since I don’t have anything up my sleeve for DC Friday this week, I’ll come back then and check him out, along with the Black Series version of the Kenner “Early Bird Kit” display.

Star Wars Black: Death Squad Commander by Hasbro

Hooray for more bonus Wednesday content! Unless five days in a row is more than you can take of my inane toy banter, in which case… Boo! More bonus Wednesday content! The truth is, I really want to get through the last few Black Series versions of the original “Kenner Twelve.” Especially now, because getting the last two have been rather problematic. Again, the Jawa and Death Squad Commander have so far only been released on the 40th Anniversary vintage-style packaging and they never turned up in my area. Eventually, I bit the bullet, paid a couple of bucks extra, and picked up today’s figure online.

As much as I grumble about it, these figures sure do look amazing on the vintage cards. Believe me, if Star Wars was my one and only collecting focus, I would have picked up a set to hang on the wall. And I’m sure it will even gave me a slight pang of regret when I tear this baby open in a few seconds.  Although, I do think Hasbro missed a huge opportunity to release a vintage-style green uniformed version on the 40th Anniversary vintage card and release the black one in a regular box, but what do I knew, eh? Let’s get with the ripping!

Now, I may be biased because I do love me some Imperial figures, but I think this guy turned out great. Granted, there’s nothing terribly complex about him. He’s just a dude with a badass sounding name in a black uniform that pushes buttons all day. I mean, what does the Empire call its accountants? Murder Force Commandos? What’s that? These guys carry out the orders to blow up entire planets and kill billions? OK, fair enough. I guess their name is earned after all.

The sculpted uniform is very well done, complete with the front flap detailed on the tunic, and just a little bit of texturing to show off the material. I particularly love the use of matte black for the uniform and gloss black for the boots and gauntlets. There’s also a crisp silver Imperial emblem stamped on his left shoulder. The wide belt features the large silver plates on the front, which helps to break up all that black, and it includes a functional holster on his right hip. The proportions on the figure are perfect, and he looks very smart and trim in the uniform.

I’ve always thought that this helmet design was pretty cool, although as a kid I somehow never made the connection between this helmet design and Vader’s helmet. I can’t remember when I had that epiphany, but ever since I tend to look at these guys with a sense of wonder. Did they design the helmets as a tribute to Vader? If so, that’s odd, because Vader seemed more like just a right-hand man to Tarkin in the original Star Wars. Were they just both cribbed off of an old Samurai design and there is no in-universe explanation? Am I overthinking this way too much? Whatever the case, they did a really nice job with this helmet, although it does look like it would be really heavy and awkward to wear all day, especially when you spend most of your time at a computer terminal.

The helmet is removable, which I’ll admit I did not see that as a given, so it was a really nice surprise when I got him in hand. It fits the head well and the chin strap does it’s job. The generic head sculpt is also pretty well done, although he still suffers from the same extremely basic paintwork as most of these Black Series portraits. The paint isn’t bad, the eyes are fairly straight and the eyebrows and hairline are clean, but it’s nothing special either. And do I detect a little bit of guilt in that expression for having pushed the button that vaporized Alderaan? Nah, probably not.

The articulation here is pretty good. He features rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists, along with swivels in the biceps. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, with double hinges in the knees, and swivels in the thighs. The ankles are hinged and have lateral rockers. There’s a swivel in the waist and both a hinge and ball joint in the neck. The portion of the tunic that goes below his belt is fairly soft and I was pleased to see that he can easily go into a kneeling position. Alas, he does not have an articulated murder button finger, although the trigger finger on his right hand can work for gesturing or pressing buttons.

Death Squad Commander comes with a BlasTech DH-17 Blaster Pistol, or at least I’m pretty sure that’s what it is. This point confuses me because I generally associate this design with Rebel weapons and I think I would have preferred getting the more Imperial-looking E-11 Blaster with this guy. I seem to recall that’s what the vintage figure came with. I guess they were both made by BlasTech and there’s no reason why Rebels and Imperials wouldn’t use the same model. A friend and I bandied this about a little via texting while I was playing with this guy and he swears Imperials were seen using the weapon in the movies. That’s good enough for me. Either way, it’s a great sculpt of a cool design, and I appreciate the silver paint on the muzzle.

Obviously, I dig this figure a lot and I seriously hope that Hasbro gets around to putting him in a box as a regular release, because I’d definitely pick up a few more. That’s the other thing that pisses me off about the 40th Anniversary line. The only three figures that were new (Tusken Raider, Jawa, and this guy) are all potential troop builders and all very tough to find here. Thankfully, Hasbro has since rectified that with a boxed release of the Tusken Raider and his price has come down quite a lot since, so I’ll likely pick up a few more of those. If the same thing happens here, I’d grab two more of these as well. The Jawa? Well, that’s a whole different story, and I hope to get to checking him out next week.

Star Wars Black: Tusken Raider by Hasbro

I’m finally counting down to a complete set of the Black Series versions of the “Original Twelve” Kenner figures, with only three left to review. These have been ridiculously tough for me to get at reasonable prices as they were each originally released on the 40th Anniversary Vintage Style cardbacks and I’m still plenty sore at Hasbro for going this route. The only 40th Figures I ever saw in my neck of the woods were the repacks of Obi-Wan, Tattooine Luke, and Princess Leia, which clogged the pegs everywhere. Fortunately, I’ve since been able to hunt down the Jawa and Death Squad Commander without getting too badly beaten up on the price.

And thankfully today’s figure, The Tusken Raider, was re-issued in the traditional boxed package so he’s finally easier to come by at his regular retail price. Oh, I still haven’t been able to find him locally, but I was able to grab him online. I’ve got some great memories of this figure from the Kenner line and he’s remained a favorite, which is surprising because that goddamn ambush scene jump-scare scared the living shit out of me when I was a kid. I was like 7 years old when my parents took me to see Star Wars and that one scene is the only thing I remember from that day. The only reason I was able to get my shit back together was because I didn’t want to be the reason the family had to leave and miss the rest of the movie.

And holy crap, does this guy look amazing! Ain’t no vinyl cape here! This is easily some of the best use of softgoods Hasbro has done in this line. And yes, I realize that’s not much of a compliment, but nonetheless I really like it. I don’t know what this stuff is, but it looks like they actually dug up mummies and used the gnarled and nasty mummy bandages to make the Tusken Raider’s cloak. If so, I got to say, that’s some dedication and I approve! It fits the figure pretty well over his plastic sculpted robes, all of which are textured quite nicely. Now, I just have to keep myself from pulling on any of those random threads.

Additional detail to the outfit includes the brace of ammo pouches that run across his waist and the crisscrossed bandoleer straps across his chest. The paintwork on the pouches feature a nice watch to make them look like warn brown leather and both the pouches and the straps have individually painted fixtures to make them look like bronze or brass. The head sculpt is excellent too. From the protruding eye cylinders and head spikes, to the roller around his neck, and that creepy orifice he calls a mouth. The paint is overall solid too, except for a little brown slop on his silver nose thing.

The articulation is pretty typical for a robed Black Series figure, which means all the points are there, but the range of motion could have been better. You basically get rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. The legs have ball jointed hips, double hinged knees, and swivels in the thighs. The ankles have both hinges and lateral rockers. There’s a ball joint in the waist and both a ball joint and hinge in the neck. My biggest issue is that even with the slits up both sides of the soft plastic robes, posing his legs can get frustrating. If you have the Obi-Wan figure, than you know what I’m talking about. It makes me really wish they had gone with softgoods below the belt. The other problem is that the lower hinges in the knees have limited range of movement because of the way the lower leg is sculpted. It’s a bit of a bummer. but comes nowhere near ruining the figure for me.

The Tusken Raider comes with three different mace heads for his gaffi stick, which was a really nice surprise. I haven’t read any reviews of this guy prior to opening him, so I wasn’t expecting that. These pieces just peg and unpeg from the base of the stick and they all look great. I was already hoping to find a couple more of these guys and now that magic number will likely be three so I can have one with each style of stick.

He also comes with his musket, which is beautifully detailed. It has a rather 19th Century Moroccan flavor to it and features a scope, a reinforced stock, and various paint hits to the bits and bobs. Now, his right hand is sculpted with a trigger finger, but because of the limitations in the elbow joint, it’s really tough to get him to draw his weapon up to his cheek like he’s firing it, but I was able to get it close enough.

I’m more than a little surprised to say that the Tusken Raider now ranks among my favorite figures in the Black Series. Some minor articulation gripes aside, this figure feels closer to that impressive first wave than most of what I’ve picked up since. He features a fantastic use of softgoods, a solid sculpt, and it feels like they really made an effort with the paint. Toss in all those extra gaffi stick parts, and you can count me very pleased with the way this fellow came out. Had they gone with softgoods for the lower skirt, I think he would have been damn near perfect.

Star Wars Black (The Last Jedi): Stormtrooper Executioner by Hasbro

As promised, I’m doubling up on content today to try to get caught up on some of the Star Wars figures that have been piling up. Today I’m checking out the First Order Stormtrooper Executioner! I haven’t had any luck finding this guy in my neck of the woods, but a friend of mine decided to troop build these and then thought better of it, so I took one off his hands at a good price. The downside? He shipped it to me loose, so I have no packaged shot. That’s OK, though, it’s the same old style window box and besides, this will be a quick review since I don’t have a lot to say about this guy.

What we have here is one of them there Stormtrooper variants, aka a repaint to sell more toys. But before I get too cynical about it, I should point out that he does have a unique function. The Executioners are specifically tasked with hunting down other Stormtroopers who have deserted. Sound familiar? I’m guessing that Finn isn’t an isolated incident and maybe after getting their Starkiller Base all blowed up, there’s been an epidemic of Stormtroopers breaking ranks and spliting. We’ll find out in a few months, but to me it seems likely that we may see a squad of these turn up in the new movie to hunt down Finn.

The sculpt appears to be identical to the vanilla flavored First Order Stormies, and that’s a good thing because these were great figures and I’d like to see them return to the pegs so I can get a few more of the regular ones. I really dig the glossy finish on these guys. Shiny Stormtrooper armor is love!

The Executioner is distinguished by his black shoulder armor with First Order logos, and a black stripe on his helmet. There are a few other minor paint differences between him and the regular trooper. For example, the satchel on his left hip is all black on the standard Stormy, but has a white front panel on this guy.

The Executioner is also characterized by a rather distinctive laser axe weapon. This is a short staff with articulated appendages on the head. These swing out and generate laser arcs when it is activated, thus creating a double-edged laser cutting blade.

The accessory includes two laser effect parts, which can be removed to display it activated or deactivated. In theory, I like the idea of following through with the executioner theme and giving him an axe, but in practice it’s pretty silly. It would be much more practical to just shoot the traitorous bastards. Unfortunately, that’s not an option, because mine didn’t come with a blaster. I texted my friend and asked if he forgot something, but I was surprised to learn that Hasbro didn’t bother to included it in the package with these guys. Bummer. I’ll probably give him one of the pistols from another Stormtrooper.

All in all, this is a cool looking variant, but I’m really not keen on his weapon at all and that puts a damper on the deal. If he came with a blaster, I would have tossed the axe into the Tote of Forgotten Accessories, but since that would leave him totally unarmed, I guess I’ll let him keep it. Who knows, maybe I’ll learn to love it. Originally, I had planned on picking up a pair of these, but now that he’s in hand, I think one will be enough unless he turns up for cheap on the aftermarket.

Star Wars Black: Grand Admiral Thrawn by Hasbro

I’ll be honest, when Disney announced that they were wiping the slate clean when it came to the bulk of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, I didn’t shed many tears. I read a lot of those books in my teenage years and early 20’s, but I only ever really took to certain parts of it. Nevertheless, I was certainly happy to see that Grand Admiral Thrawn survived the purge and was forever cemented into canon with his appearances on Star Wars Rebels. Did Heir to the Empire ever happen? Who cares… Thrawn is alive and kicking and he got a 6-inch Black Series figure!

Indeed, in that sense I suppose we can consider this figure a continuation of the realistically-styled versions of the Rebels crew that we’ve been getting peppered throughout the Black Series. Whatever the case, Thrawn was first released as an SDCC Exclusive with a whole bunch of extras and some spiffy packaging. That stuff was neat and all, but I’m perfectly happy having picked up his vanilla retail release… well, mostly perfectly happy. Let’s check him out!

Here he is and don’t he look damn spiffy! The special white version of the Imperial uniform was finally seen on the big screen in Rogue One, and boy did it look grand. Yes, pun intended! Here Thrawn is sporting the form fitting white tunic with with gold epaulets, the rank insignia on the left of his chest, and what are those, pens? tucked into his tunic one either side. He has some additional adornment on his collar, the puffed out military-style pants, and black matte boots. The wide belt includes a functional holster for his sidearm. All that is great, but here’s where I’ve got to give some serious props to Hasbro…

This figure appears to share next to no parts with Director Krennic, and that’s a big deal to me. While Hasbro is able to share parts in their 6-inch Marvel Legends line all the time, the Black Series affords a lot fewer opportunities. If there was ever a figure (besides Astromech droids) where it would have been understandable to share a buck, it would have been here. And yet, apart from maybe the boots (but I don’t think so), these are two totally unique figures. Just putting the two figures beside each other shows that Krennic is built on a shorter buck, none of the sculpted wrinkles in the pants line up, and there are significant differences all around the uniform. That’s pretty damn cool!

Overall, I think the portrait here is pretty good, although the paint does tend to break down a bit the closer you get. There are some excellent details in the sculpted facial features, particularly in the angular cheeks and around the nose. The hairline is also painted very neatly and overall, he has an appropriately stern look on his face. The eyebrows are a bit overstated for my taste, the eyes look fine, but the purple paint on the lips is sloppy and I could have done without it entirely. It looks a bit like he’s been hitting the Spice too hard. Oh wait, wrong franchise. Still, all in all, not bad.

Thrawn’s articulation is right in line with what I’ve come to expect from the Black Series. You get rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. The legs have ball jointed hips, double hinged knees, swivels up under the tunic, and the ankles have both hinges and lateral rockers. There’s a swivel in the chest and both a ball joint and swivel in the neck. Not bad for an Imperial Officer.

While the SDCC Exclusive release was flush with extra goodies, this retail release includes only one, and that’s his sidearm. This is a really cool and unique blaster design and it fits perfectly in his holster. But come on, Hasbro? Not even a Ysalamiri to keep The Force at bay? I’m perfectly fine without the entirety of his art collection, but there was certainly room in that package for something else.

Well, lack of accessories no withstanding, I really do love this figure. Thrawn looks great, and the fact that he’s an all new figure was a welcome surprise. I’m all about getting as many Imperials as I can, so I’m hoping that some Imperial Officers can’t be far behind. In the meantime, I’ll keep my eye open every now and then for the SDCC version. I doubt it’ll ever turn up for what I’d be willing to pay, but it never hurts to look around.