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Friday, January 17, 2014

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 2,080: Merumeru (The Black Series)

MERUMERU The First!
The Black Series 3 3/4-Inch Basic Figures
Item No.:
Asst. A5077 No. A5163
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: Black Series #15
Includes: Helmet, blaster
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $10.99
Availability: December 2013
Appearances: Revenge of the Sith

Bio: This Wookiee captain leads the Wookiee defense forces against the invading Separatist army during the Battle of Kashyyyk.  (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

Availability: Click here to buy it at Entertainment Earth now!

Commentary: When I saw the name Merumeru on a list I assumed it was a renamed Cantina alien - nope!  When I saw the figure, I thought it was just a retooled 2005 Sneak Preview Wookiee Warrior with a new head and arms - nope!  This big guy isn't nearly as big, but has 13 points of articulation, a more realistic build (larger than Chewbacca but not gargantuan), and a swell helmet.  It's very similar to the aforementioned preview Wookiee, but the new sculpt and new gear make it a very different animal.

The lost waist joint is no big loss, as it was ugly anyway.  The new joints largely blend in and they all seem to move quite freely, even the hip joints actually have enough clearance so he can sit down.  Hasbro did a great job giving the figure a little personality in his face, too, but I think the 2005 one is a bit more expressive.  His helmet is a very tight fit, and his dreadlocks more or less work fine.   I didn't have any real problems getting him to hold his weapons, but in cold weather it seems the plastic in his hands have a little less give than I would prefer.

This figure was a real surprise - I was expecting a recycled warrior and I got something new and well-executed.  The entire wave is above average - 3 new guys, 2 retools - I gotta give Hasbro credit, this is easily the best new wave of figures in The Black Series so far.

Collector's Notes: I am hearing this figure is hitting Walmart stores.  I got mine at Entertainment Earth in a wave 3 case.   Given that many collectors are narrowing their focus a bit, and he's the only character from the original trilogy, well, I wouldn't get your hopes up.  Good hunting.

--Adam Pawlus


Day 2,080: January 17, 2014

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 2,079: Clone Commander Neyo (The Black Series)

CLONE COMMANDER NEYO Again
The Black Series 3 3/4-Inch Basic Figures
Item No.:
Asst. A5077 No. A5164
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: Black Series #16
Includes: Helmet, blaster
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $10.99
Availability: December 2013
Appearances: Revenge of the Sith

Bio: This clone commander is leading a speeder bike recon team on Saleucami when he receives Order 66.  (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

Availability: Click here to buy it at Entertainment Earth now!

Commentary: When it comes to The Black Series there's more or less a template.  It's very paint-by-numbers now, which is good in the sense that expectations are pretty modest and more of then than not fans know what they're getting before they open to package - in other worse, when it comes to repaint/retool figures like Clone Commander Neyo our love is Hasbro's to lose. 

We have seen numerous figures use this body with new deco or a new helmet, and by and large they've all been pretty good.  Since we've had several versions of Neyo released since 2007, most of which were based on the 2003 Episode II Clone body, it's not at all unreasonable to expect that for what must be at least the third release, that what was actually a great idea got knocked down a few pegs by another simple factory error - his belt is bright white, and the rest of his armor is overly dirty.  CC-8826 would be great as a clean figure.  Or as a dirty figure.  He's clearly filthier than he needs to be, but this wonderful dirt wipe brings out all sorts of detail, particularly on the buttons on his wrist armor.  It makes the helmet look better.  The colors are largely improved, plus Hasbro tooled up a whole new back of the figure's torso for the first time - it looks awesome!  But the belt! I can't get over it.  Sure, he has a new shoulder strap too, but an overly white (and gloopy) belt is what made the 2007/2008 figure look a little wonky, too.   It's downright painful to see Hasbro repeat its mistakes in a line that costs more, especially when it could have been easily avoided just by cheaping out and leaving the body armor a plain white color.

The biggest positive surprise of this figure was the head - I've probably gone on record more than a few (dozen) times about how I'm sick of removable helmets, but this is a bucket I can get behind.  The helmet itself is a little large, but its exceptional deco looks good and it hides a wonderful little surprise!  The new Clone head sculpt has a new hairstyle, and a green face tattoo.  My eyes are not the best, so the fine detail is really hard to see - the green stripe is actually the designation of the character in the Aurebesh letters, CC-8826!   This comes from a design on The Clone Wars cartoon, thus giving us another figure that pulls double duty as a movie figure and a "realistic" TV clone.   I can dig it!  The bemused face sculpt and slicked-back hair are a nice touch, so I tip my hat to the sculptor (or sculptors) responsible for the new parts.

I'm not overly fond of the black rings used in the ankles as it looks pretty ugly on a white plastic figure, but other than that it's on the happy side of decent.  You get bend-and-swivel wrists and the now normal compliment of 14 total joints, making this a better Neyo for speederbikes than the one that was originally included with a bike a few years ago.   The fact that it falls shy of perfection really hurts in this era of remakes and little in the way of new figures, because each slot has the chance to delight and disappoint.  I doubt most fans will be disappointed because it's a huge improvement in terms of sculpt and deco, but those wanting the perfect Neyo will have to wait. Oh, and he's got that horrid stamp carved into his thigh like so many recent figures do. Should Hasbro introduce a 6-inch version eventually - and I'm beginning to doubt that it will be soon - I hope the deco issue is addressed.  That belt is going to bug the snot out of me for years.

Collector's Notes: I am hearing this figure is hitting Walmart stores.  I got mine at Entertainment Earth in a wave 3 case.   Given that many collectors are narrowing their focus a bit, and he's the only character from the original trilogy, well, I wouldn't get your hopes up.  Good hunting.

--Adam Pawlus


Day 2,079: January 16, 2014

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 2,078: Vizam (The Black Series)

 VIZAM Nikto Redux
The Black Series 3 3/4-Inch Basic Figures
Item No.:
Asst. A5077 No. A5251
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: Black Series #17
Includes: Hat, blaster, clamp-on skiff gun
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $10.99
Availability: December 2013
Appearances: Return of the Jedi

Bio: Vizam works as Jabba the Hutt's weapons master and is on the sail barge during the battle at the Pit of Carkoon.  (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

Availability: Click here to buy it at Entertainment Earth now!

Commentary: While we still don't have remakes of all of the 1970s and 1980s figures yet, Hasbro is going back to update new figures from the 1990s.  Vizam was previously made in 1999 as part of Jabba's Skiff Guards, a 3-pack which included Klaatu, Nikto, and Barada so everyone can laugh at what they think is a reference to something other than The Day The Earth Stood Still.   The original figure had 6 joints, this one has 14.  The original figure had one accessory, this one has 3.   By numbers alone, this is the pure winner.

While I will grouse slightly just to say I never felt I needed an update of this figure, it's a good figure.  The dirt is spread a little more this time around, and the sculpting is a complete improvement.  The joints are nice and tight, plus the figure can be easily posed holding the large cannon with no problems staying upright - so far, anyway.  That's impressive.  He has a holster for his smaller gun, and the big gun clamps on to the rail of your Desert Skiffs from 1999 and/or 2008.   For those of you thinking that Hasbro made this as a teaser for an upcoming sail barge, uh, no.   A very similar cannon was sold with Nikto Gunner Nysad in 2009, too.  I give Hasbro points for synergy and rewarding long-time collectors, but it's always strange to see an accessory released for a toy that hasn't been out for five years... which was itself based on a toy that was first available 21 years before that.


The pistol is nice, and fits in the holster well.  The hat requires a little futzing to look right, but fits on the head quite well.  The one thing about this figure that I don't like is that Hasbro really lightened up the areas round his eyes to the point where it's a little distracting.  The figure looks like a human head with latex appliances rather than a cheap rubber mask, and well, I'm partial to cheap rubber masks.  Also, you'll notice the plastic rings used in the knees and shoulders are blue - so they don't match the surrounding plastic of the shirt or pants, much like some of recent clone troopers in the Geonosis exclusive sets.

This is the only new Trilogy-era figure of the wave, so it's nice that Hasbro made it a good one.  I could stand for a few more Jabba's aliens, preferably all new ones, but Hasbro did a nice job here all the same.  Since we had a remake of Barada/Kithaba, I assume that we're going to see a new Klaatu Skiff Guard sooner or later.  For long time collectors or newbies, this is a nice addition.   As a progressively agitated old man, though, I'd really rather have had a remake of a lesser figure or an entirely new character... but hey, it's better than another Sith or Jedi from the novels.

Collector's Notes: I am hearing this figure is hitting Walmart stores.  I got mine at Entertainment Earth in a wave 3 case.   Given that many collectors are narrowing their focus a bit, and he's the only character from the original trilogy, well, I wouldn't get your hopes up.  Good hunting.

--Adam Pawlus


Day 2,078: January 15, 2014

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 2,077: Darth Plagueis (The Black Series)

DARTH PLAGUEIS Expanded Universe
The Black Series 3 3/4-Inch Basic Figures
Item No.:
Asst. A5077 No. A5087
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: Black Series #18
Includes: Cloth robes, 2-piece lightsaber staff, transpirator mask
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $10.99
Availability: December 2013
Appearances: Nowhere of consequence

Bio: Known as Darth Plagueis the Wise, this Sith Lord experiments with ways to cheat death, using midi-chlorians, until he is killed by his own apprentice - Darth Sidious.  (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

Availability: Click here to buy it at Entertainment Earth now!

Commentary: If you're a younger fan - as in, under 20ish - you probably have a soft spot in your heart for Darth Plagueis and maybe view him as an important character.  If you're an older fan, he's probably of no consequence - if this divide sounds ridiculous, I remember hearing from numerous fans back in the late 1990s and early 2000s that Mon Mothma was one of the most important characters in the original trilogy due to perceived events and her rank in the Rebellion - but anyone who saw the movie who wasn't preposterously invested in aspects of the lore would see this as ridiculous.  I see the fact that Darth Plagueis made the main line as nothing short of a miracle - Hasbro has historically had little problem selling any Sith figure save for Palpatine and a couple of Mauls, and maybe the odd Vader.  As categories of characters go you could just sit around and make up new Sith Lords all day long and fans would buy them, and for that reason (combined with the consistently poor distribution and what may be lower runs) there's little to no risk of making a character that fans demanded a toy for before anybody knew what his species was.  Completely new characters-as-toys are rare in the hobby these days, and my assumption is that this figure will stay scarce and therefore in demand from the Sith faithful while a lot of the old-school fans may shrug a bit.  I'm in the middle, personally - as a fan of obscure nonsense, I like him much as I would have appreciated Jaxxon or Sedriss.   It's not unusual for the licensing juggernaut to expand on a throwaway line from one of the movies and make it into something bigger, and the Muun Sith got a novel (after several years of delay), a miniature figure, and this action figure.  That's pretty good for a throwaway line in the final Prequel!

The figure itself has a design that seems more consistent with the days of the Empire than the robed Sith.  There's a removable cropped vest that's not unlike the costume of Starkiller, plus ripped abs on his torso that come off as kind of silly for such a thin character.  Hasbro's take on the figure seems designed to please a certain kind of fan, with generous articulation and more black than a Spinal Tap album cover.  It's almost silly how dark this figure is, but the articulation is almost exactly what fans would want.  There's no waist joint, but with swivel wrists and a grand total of 13 joints it's pretty good.  He has no problems sitting and all joints work pretty much perfectly - if you want him to have perfectly bent knees, you may do so.  He stands well, particularly for such a skinny figure - this is an area Hasbro has struggled with and as I have not had him long, I don't know what gravity will do to him on a shelf over time.  (Nosedive?)   Because Hasbro gave him an excellent range of movement, he has no real problems holding his accessories either.  Getting his mask on can be tricky, as it involves decapitation and the plastic of both the mask and the neck are very thin - I expect snapping parts in the future.  It feels more fragile than other figures, which is one of the reasons I've been a big fan of the Saga Legends/Mission Series style.   Longevity trumps articulation every time.

Because it's a new sculpt of a new character and occupies a strange place of having limited presence at the time of his ascent to cult status, for all intents and purposes this is the next prequel-era Boba Fett.  I don't know of anyone else getting so much adoration with so little backstory (which, of course, came later.) (Well, I guess Aurra Sing did as well.)  If you're already a fan, you bought this figure and have been grinding your teeth as you read the last couple of paragraphs.  If you aren't a fan, it's still a nice figure and I would suggest picking it up to add to the ongoing plastic glut that will some day bury you in your office while you wait days if not weeks for someone to find your barely-alive body.   Also, it's a lot of fun!

Collector's Notes: I am hearing this figure is hitting Walmart stores.  I got mine at Entertainment Earth in a wave 3 case.   Much like Darth Revan and Darth Malak in 2007, this figure's built-in audience will probably do a good job of preventing you from ever seeing one in a store.   I would not anticipate this being an easy figure to find based on how Hasbro has shipped its collector-oriented figures since 2011, barring a mass dumping at Five Below or TJ Maxx in the coming year.  Were this figure shipped in good numbers, odds are it wouldn't sell.  Because it's scarce, it's a legend.  There's really no best case scenario on a character like this one when it comes to making a casepack.

--Adam Pawlus


Day 2,077: January 14, 2014

Monday, January 13, 2014

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 2,076: Mace Windu (The Black Series)

MACE WINDU Clone Wars
The Black Series 3 3/4-Inch Basic Figures
Item No.:
Asst. A5077 No. A5252
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: Black Series #19
Includes: Jango Fett's helemt, lightsaber (lit), lightsaber (hilt)
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $10.99
Availability: December 2013
Appearances: The Clone Wars

Bio: Mace Windu is a Jedi Master known for his wisdom as well as his excellent skill in Lightsaber combat.  (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

Availability: Click here to buy it at Entertainment Earth now!

Commentary: I like this Mace Windu figure a lot, but before I continue I just want to say how much I dislike the packaging one last time.   It's so bland, uninviting, and generally doesn't upsell the consumer on another figure.   It's a real dead end and with Toy Fair just weeks away I'm really hoping Hasbro retires this style for 3 3/4-inch individually packaged action figures.  I bet this template would look awesome on window boxes with diorama backgrounds, though!  Anyway, let's talk Mr. Windu.

He's pretty good!  The base figure is a retooled 2007 Mace Windu from the 30th Anniversary Collection, down to the copyright dates.  In other words, for Mace Windu alone, this mold has been retooled no fewer than 2 times.  The arms are the area with the real upgrade this time, as the 2011 Vintage release gave us the partially cloth robes. I think the head is a new sculpt, as the skin tone is different and the figure has no eyebrows this time around.  The robes are a more desaturated color, and the most exciting addition of all are his bend-and-swivel wrists.  This little upgrade makes this the best Mace Windu figure in terms of mobility, as he has no real problems sitting either.  Hasbro did a really nice job exploiting its current tooling library to make something that, at first glance, looks and feels new.

Due to subtle variations in design change, his elbows do look a little weird - previous figures made the armor a single piece, located entirely on the forearm.  On this release, there's a ring around the bicep and a little piece of armor protecting the elbow, with a large amount of brown robe poking out in between.  It's visually jarring, but functionally a superior design.  Movie purists won't care for this one too much, but I think fans of the animated designs are going to eat this one up.   My favorite areas of the Star Wars mythos (that are currently getting new toys, anyway) are The Clone Wars and Return of the Jedi, so this makes another nice addition to my collection.   I appreciate that it's visually quite distinctive from previous uses of this mold as this character - a lot - and the fact that the lightsaber plugs into his belt just makes me all kinds of happy.  Nicely done Hasbro!

Collector's Notes: I am hearing this figure is hitting Walmart stores.  I got mine at Entertainment Earth in a wave 3 case.  At this time I have not seen evidence of this figure on my local store pegs, but as I'm fond of telling others it's very easy for one single collector to purchase 100% of the evidence that any case had arrived in a store when figures all debut at 1 per box.

--Adam Pawlus


Day 2,076: January 13, 2014

Friday, January 3, 2014

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 2,075: Chewbacca (Mission Series 2013)

CHEWBACCA Movie-Style
2013 Darth Vader Lava Line Look Mission Series Death Star
Item No.:
Asst. A5228 No. A5789
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: #MS07
Includes: Bowcaster, Han Solo figure
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $9.99
Availability: December 2013
Appearances: Star Wars

Bio: Han Solo and Chewbacca are swept up in the Rebel Alliance's struggle to free the galaxy from the evil Galactic Empire. These two unlikely heroes help rescue a princess and deliver plans to the Rebels that help them destroy the Empire's Death Star.  (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

Availability: Click here to buy it at Entertainment Earth now!

Commentary: You can't have Han Solo without Chewbacca, so it makes sense that we'd get one here.  It's a figure that feels close to great, but it's a little undercooked.  The deco and his weapon are the sour points, but the sculpting and articulation are more or less exactly what you would want from a figure like this.  (And for the record, I don't expect most of you will want a simplified Chewie.  Me, I'm OK with it.  I like weird figures.)

Compatibility with the big Millennium Falcon is something most Chewie figures lack and I'm thrilled to report this one can sit in the cockpit.   There's no dangling Chewie man purse to get in the way of sitting - just pull the seat back, and presto, there he sits.   The joints for his hips swing forward without restriction too, so from an engineering perspective this is probably the best Chewbacca to play with since the line rebooted in 1995.  His head looks a little skinny, but I'm OK with that.  The fur sculpt is quite nice, and while it lacks the articulation of the 2004 Vintage Original Trilogy Collection Chewbacca and his descendants it also lacks the hanging fur and ugly torso joints.

The biggest problem with this figure is that it's for kids. Since Hasbro did something terrible for children, it's likely both adults and young fans will walk away from this figure disliking it.  The bowcaster crossbow weapon is three separate pieces held together with a clear rubber band.   It you take this rubber band off - and of course you would - the scope part falls off easily.  I didn't even realize I had knocked it off several times after I opened it.  It will not stay put - you're going to need to glue it or prepare to lose it.  It's up there with TK-421's commlink for the winner of future-most-lost accessory.  The bowcaster is otherwise nice, it fits easily in Chewbacca's hand.  No kid-driven figure (or accessory) should require any post-factory modifications to avoid falling to pieces, so I don't think any reasonable fan (or apologist) can make a case for it being this way.  I don't care if it saved one-tenth of a cent per figure across thousands of figures - it shouldn't fall off like this.

Deco is a mixed bag - I've seen a few of these and the eyes and teeth are clean on some and not on others.   If you see it in a store, examine Chewie's head closely before making a purchase.   You'll also note that his fur color is off - this is another thing Hasbro could easily fix in a running change if enough fans make a stink of it, but you guys won't, because lately you can't be bothered to say much to Hasbro or on forums other than distribution issues.  So we'll all just suffer with this desaturated brown color that looks like an aging Chewbacca is starting to go gray.

His claws are sculpted but not decirated, and there aren't many painted highlights on his fur.  The color choice is particularly frustrating because the bandolier looks good and the face looks nice.  If it was a terrible sculpt, it'd be a lot easier to just not care.   It's still decent - I love how he lacks the giant and annoying strap for his weapon and fur that looks like its gravity-specific in how it should be posed.  This new Chewbacca is a lot like Mission Series R2-D2 in the sense that it's frustrating just how close he got to being the perfect modern-era toy (for kids) action figure.   On the bright side, Hasbro could easily remedy all of these problems with their existing tooling.  A tiny bit of glue and a different mix of brown plastic would make it a huge improvement and would upgrade it to a worthy pilot for anyone with the 2008 Legacy Millennium Falcon.

Collector's Notes: I got this from Entertainment Earth in early December.  I have not seen it in stores yet.

--Adam Pawlus


Day 2,075: January 3, 2014

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 2,074: Han Solo (Mission Series 2013)

HAN SOLO Movie-Style
2013 Darth Vader Lava Line Look Mission Series Death Star
Item No.:
Asst. A5228 No. A5789
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: #MS07
Includes: Blaster, Chewbacca figure
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $9.99
Availability: December 2013
Appearances: Star Wars

Bio: Han Solo and Chewbacca are swept up in the Rebel Alliance's struggle to free the galaxy from the evil Galactic Empire. These two unlikely heroes help rescue a princess and deliver plans to the Rebels that help them destroy the Empire's Death Star.  (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

Availability: Click here to buy it at Entertainment Earth now!

Commentary: With their new approach to figures, Hasbro has cut a few corners - in some cases, you won't really notice unless you squint.  WIth Han Solo it's a little more obvious.   The sculpting pulls from the vintage, stand-at-attention aesthetic which is both refreshing and falls just short of perfection - this would have been a wonderful opportunity for Hasbro to bend Han's right elbow, just like the 1978 release.  Instead both arms are straight down, which, frankly, that's OK too.  

In terms of sculpt and color, Hasbro got it really close this time.  The wrists are flesh.  His pants have the red stripes on them.  The hair color seems right, his gun is black, and his boots are glossy.   The only place where Hasbro needed some help are the eyes.  On my sample the eyes look to have some off-center blue color, which is wrong because a) it shouldn't be off-center and b) it shouldn't be blue.   The eyebrows are a smidgen off - you can see where they're sculpted, and the paint masks don't line up quite right.  Because of this, he reminds me more of Beau Bridges with his unique brows.  Also, one of mine is crooked.  Lastly, it's worth noting that Han has some smile lines around his mouth - kudos to Hasbro for including such a great, easy way to give Han Solo his trademark smirk, but perhaps it needs to be dialed back a notch - these lines have the power to grant personality, and also to add age.  It should be a little more subtle here, and had Hasbro selected another kind of flesh plastic for his head we may not even be having this conversation right now.   I really do believe a different paint job (or plastic job) could change this figure from pretty good to great with no sculpt changes.  The sculptor seems to have done a nice job.

As a toy, this figure succeeds because it passes my test for any and all future Han Solo toys - he can sit in the cockpit of the big 2008 Millennium Falcon just fine.  Those chairs seemed designed with bent knees in mind, but this one still fits - so does Chewie.   That's incredibly important to me, and actually trumps the entire previous paragraph of deco and sculpt concerns.  Hasbro gave me what I wanted most - a figure I can play with.   If you don't like the pose (understandable) or the lack of a working holster (Rex got two!), I feel you.  The head deco could be better, and hopefully my sample was just a bad egg.   Hasbro engineered the figure correctly, and from where I sit (as a spoiled man-child with over 30 different Han Solos in my toy room) that's really all I'm after now. I'm pumped Hasbro made a version of the character where his holster doesn't get in the way of him sitting in his signature vehicle, and as such - shortcomings aside - this is my new go-to Han Solo figure for pretty much any situation.  I eagerly await Hasbro's next core character in this style.  (Leia please.)

Collector's Notes: I got this from Entertainment Earth in early December.  I have not seen it in stores yet.

--Adam Pawlus


Day 2,074: January 2, 2014