Star Wars Black (Solo): Qi’ra by Hasbro

How about that Solo: A Star Wars Story, eh? Who could have thought that such a fun and simple little space adventure could elicit so much controversy? And I’m not even talking about people picking it apart. From the “this was an unnecessary prequel” mantra to “let’s form a boycott campaign against this movie because we didn’t like another movie” all I have to say is “Holy shit, people!” Let’s all just relax and have a look at a Star Wars figure.

If you need any indicator of how much I enjoyed Solo, the fact that I’ve purchased and actually opened the entire wave of figures should do the trick. I have a short stack of figures from The Last Jedi that I just can’t bring myself to open, so it feels good to be a little excited about some SWB releases again. Qi’ra wasn’t one of my favorite things about the film, but as a character, she was perfectly serviceable. To be honest I’m just not a big fan of  Emilia Clarke, so I may be a little biased here. Oh, and she’s Figure #66. I don’t usually pay attention to the numbers in this line, but really, Hasbro? You couldn’t have thought of a more appropriate character for the 66 slot?

Qi’ra wore a few outfits throughout the movie, but Hasbro is dubbing this her Corellia outfit and it was a curious look to go with, since I seem to recall her only wearing it in the beginning. Indeed, while doing some research it was hard to find that many pictures of her wearing it. Either way, her sculpted digs include black boots, pants, and skirt, as well as a red top and a jacket. The skirt is a bit weird, as it’s longer in the front than in the back, it has tabs coming off the sides that don’t seem to have a function, and there’s some dirt or mud splashed up against the bottom front edge. She also has a brace of what looks like some kind of ammo or blaster charges across the front of her belt. The bit of additional mud splash on her boots is a nice touch.

The red and black top is smooth and doesn’t have a whole lot of sculpted detail. It does, however have a front flap that’s partially pulled down. What is it with these flappy shirts in this movie? Both Lando and Han had similarly designed tops, all of which remind me a bit of the Starfleet uniforms that debuted in Star Trek II. The jacket is gray with a textured collar that extends down the front and looks like it’s supposed to be some kind of wool or fur. The sculpted sleeves are also rumpled quite a bit and looking like they’ve been partially pushed up to reveal the various devices on her wrists. All in all, Hasbro did a nice job on the outfit.

I’m a bit torn on the portrait. If I were judging it strictly on likeness, I wouldn’t give it the highest marks. There are some similarities here and there, particularly in her lips. It’s not the worst likeness this line has turned out, but it’s certainly not the best either. Still, it’s certainly better than Funko did with the likeness of Clarke from their 6-inch Game of Thrones line. The face here is very pretty and the paint on her lips and printing on her eyes are both on point. The somewhat distinctive haircut is recreated especially well. All in all, I’d say not bad, just not great.

Qi’ra comes with only one accessory and that’s her blaster. It’s a very small, double-barreled pistol with a gray body and silver barrels. Oddly enough it’s even designed to come apart. It’s a nice little gun and while it’s meant for her right hand with the trigger finger, she can actually hold it in either one. I just wish there was somewhere on her to store it.

As for poseability, we have some pretty standard female SWB articulation on display here, which means rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. The legs have ball joints at the hips, double hinges in the knees, and the ankles have both hinges and lateral rockers. There are swivels in the thighs, a ball joint at the waist, and her neck is both hinged and ball jointed. The skirt is slit up the sides so it doesn’t impede her hip movement all that much, and the range of motion on her elbows is surprisingly good.

Qi’ra was actually the hardest figure in this assortment for me to find. I happened upon the Range Trooper before any of the others, and I even saw one more on the pegs since then. Meanwhile the pegs are always chock full of Lando and Han, almost to the point where they’re outnumbering DJ from The Last Jedi. Can’t imagine why that figure isn’t selling! As for Qi’ra, I only found her once and she hasn’t turned up again since, so I’m glad I bought her when I did. I’m also glad that Hasbro is following through with another wave of 6-inch Black Series Solo figures. I’ll be keeping my eye out for those!

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Star Wars Black (Solo): Lando Calrissian by Hasbro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Star Wars Black (Solo): Han Solo by Hasbro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Star Wars Black (Solo): Range Trooper by Hasbro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Star Wars Black: Imperial Royal Guard by Hasbro

Oh, Star Wars Black Series, why can’t I quit you? You are a line of figures I really want to walk away from, because you’re all over the place when it comes to sculpts and paint and actor likenesses. But whenever I try to leave you, I keep getting pulled back in by some figure that turned out pretty damn good. And even if I did quit today, I’d still have a good half-dozen or so figures waiting to be reviewed, so let’s get to it. Today I’m looking at a figure that I was really looking forward to, even if he really doesn’t have a place on my display shelf. The Emperor’s Royal Guard!

Or, apparently he goes by Imperial Royal Guard these days, at least according to the box. There was something about the magic of Star Wars that could capture our imaginations with just a cool costume design flashed on a couple of frames of film. Thanks to the old Kenner action figures, I could spend countless hours speculating on a background character, just because I had an action figure of him and needed to invent a backstory. Nowadays the crushing weight of the Expanded Universe canon spoon fed to us by the InterWebs does that for us, but back in the day it was all up to our imaginations. Case in point, these Royal Guards remain one of my favorite troop designs in the whole series. I find these guys to be intimidating and badass. But that’s all based on mystery spiced by my own whimsical extrapolations, because the Royal Guards were merely window dressing in Return of the Jedi. Or more accurately, elevator dressing? Either way, I’ve owned every version of these guys that Kenner or Hasbro have put out and I’ve loved all of them. Suffice it to say, I was eager to see how the Black Series version would turn out.

Softgoods! The Black Series hasn’t always taken advantage of this scale to incorporate softgoods, but I think it was a no-brainer for this figure. The Royal Guard’s majestic cloak is fashioned from a nice soft and brilliant red fabric that falls pretty naturally around the figure. It can bunch up at the shoulders a bit, but all in all I think it looks really good. The only sculpted plastic this guy is showing is his very distinctive helmet. The sculpt for the helmet matches all of the sexy and sinister curves I remember, but the paint used for the black visor could have been a little crisper. It doesn’t even fill out the entire area that’s supposed to be black. Come on, Hasbro. There is literally one paint application showing on this entire figure and it turned out a bit dodgy. Eh, the truth is it’s only really noticeable if you get in close, so let’s give him a pass. As for what’s under the cloak? My guess would be they cheaped out with just a blank buck, but let’s take a peek…

OH MY GOD!!! You’re just going to have to believe me on this one, folks. I haven’t read or watched any reviews of this guy, so taking him out of the box and lifting his robe is the first time I saw what was going on under there and I am in awe. Not only does he have a fully detailed and sculpted suit of armor under there, it is absolutely beautiful in both its design and execution. It’s not quite the Imperial Guard from the Shadow of the Empire, but it’s close enough for me to use as a stand in. Hell, we’re going to have to get rid of those robes and take a closer look at his business!

Removing the robes is as simple as popping off the head and popping it back on and I’m actually surprised that the figure looks as good as it does with the robes off and the regular head reattached. I will, however, throw it out there that Hasbro should have included the Shadows of the Empire Imperial Guard helmet as a swap out because that would have been amazing. But I digress. Getting the cloak off this guy is like I’m seeing him for the first time, and I really dig what I see. He’s wearing a sculpted dark maroon suit with bright crimson armor pieces sculpted onto it. Little touches include the painted buckles on the straps holding on his shin guards, pouches on his belt, and a holster for a pistol that I did not even realize these guys carried. I really am impressed and yet also supremely disappointed that we never got to see these guys cast off their robes and show off their fighting skills like the Praetorian Guards in The Last Jedi did.

The Royal Guard comes with two accessories, the blaster pistol and a force pike. The pistol looks identical to the one carried by the Biker Scouts, but I don’t have that one handy to do a comparison. Either way, the Guard’s left hand is sculpted to hold it pretty well, but I had no luck getting it into his right hand. The cross draw required for the holster on the right hip isn’t unheard of, but as we’ll see in a bit, the cloak makes wielding the pistol in that hand a little problematic. The force pike, on the other hand, is a new weapon and Hasbro put a lot of effort into the sculpt. I’ve only really seen this accessory before in the 3 3/4-inch scale, so it’s cool to see it fleshed out with some of the finer details.

The articulation includes rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, have swivels in the thighs, double hinges in the knees, and hinges and rockers in the ankles. There’s a ball joint in the chest and the neck is ball jointed, but the helmet doesn’t offer a whole lot of range of motion. So my big question is, how well does the articulation and accessories work with the cloaked figure. Let’s put it back on and find out.

Most of the time, these guys tend to stand there with their force pike in hand and flank The Emperor. Let’s face it, how many times do you think some random Joe takes a pop at Papa Palpatine? Probably not often. So I tend to think of these guards as mostly for show. Anyway, thanks to a slit running down the right side of the robes, the right arm is accessible for him to hold the weapon in his most iconic of poses. I’m not sure why they went with the pointy index finger in his right hand, but maybe it was so you can get a bit of an angle on the way he’s holding the weapon.

Of course, if you want him to start busting out the action poses, it helps to roll the cloak back over his shoulders. I didn’t think this would work that well, but it’s actually not too bad. However, the left arm with the gun can still be a little awkward. If I can grab another one of these, I may try out slitting the robe up the left side as well to offer a little more easy access. I’d like to think that the Royal Guards just drop the cloaks when the occasion for combat presents itself.

I started out by saying this was a figure that has no real place on my display shelves, and that’s kind of true. I skipped the Black Series Emperor, because I honestly didn’t think it looked very good and now I’ve got an Emperor’s Guard with no Emperor for him to guard. It’s something that I can’t easily remedy because Palpy is now going for a shit ton of Republic Credits on the secondary market, and if I wasn’t going to buy him for $20, I sure as hell am not going to pay more. That having been said, this figure has both surprised and delighted me by all the work Hasbro did on the body under those robes. I expected him to look good standing there at attention with his force pike, but not much else. Who would have thought that a simple figure like this could have just possibly rekindled my love for this line.

Star Wars Black (Legends): Jaina Solo by Hasbro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How about The Last Jedi, huh? It’s really bringing the fan community together! That was sarcasm. I’m honestly surprised at how polarizing it’s been, because personally, after two viewings I’m still pretty mixed on it. There were parts I loved, parts I hated. I didn’t like it nearly as much as The Force Awakens or Rogue One. Overall I 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.

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.