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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 2,088: Snowtrooper Commander (The Black Series 2014)

SNOWTROOPER COMMANDER Hoth
The Black Series 3 3/4-Inch Basic Figures
Item No.:
Asst. A5077 No. A5634
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: Black Series #23
Includes: Blaster, rifle
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $10.99
Availability: June 2014
Appearances: The Empire Strikes Back

Bio: Imperial Snowtrooper Commanders unleash the full force of their weapons and troopers on the Rebel Alliance's base on the ice planet Hoth.  (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

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

Commentary: While not always labeled as such, we've had a few Snowtrooper Commander figures since 2003 or so.   Most of them were pretty action-oriented, and they all shared the same torso (although there was retooling in 2006 to fit in a removable helmet and a clone head.)  This version is unique in that it has a ball-jointed helmet, so it rotates freely and looks great.  The smooth mask looks just like what we saw of the commanders on the AT-AT, and the poses are limited by the 14 points of articulation.  Even though he should just stand around and nod, it's nice to have options.  Rotating writs give this all-new sculpt a lot of personality but also pop off incredibly easily.  To get him to hold his three-piece rifle, it's easier to remove the hand first because you're going to knock it off anyway.


The plastic kama prevents sitting, but again that's OK since this figure exists mostly to stand anyway.  Hasbro gave him a torso that bends forward and in all directions, and for the first time ever his kama has a holster for a bonus "Han Solo" pistol.  Two guns, wowie zowie!   The figure's sculpt is crisp, his paint is clean, and the "cloth" parts aren't overly wrinkly.  This may well be Hasbro's finest Snowtrooper, with the recently released Saga Legends version being a great, cheap henchman.  Or it would, if you had a chance in Hell of finding one in American shelves right now.   Without question, if you can stand another upgrade, go get this Snowtrooper Commander.  It's great.  It lacks mud.  You're going to love it, or at least like it.

Collector's Notes: This figure started shipping from online toy stores late in June 2014.  At press time I have not heard of him showing up in big box shops.

--Adam Pawlus


Day 2,088: July 3, 2014

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 2,087: Toryn Farr (The Black Series 2014)

TORYN FARR Action Figure Debut
The Black Series 3 3/4-Inch Basic Figures
Item No.:
Asst. A5077 No. A5635
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: Black Series #23
Includes: Blaster, headphones
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $10.99
Availability: June 2014
Appearances: The Empire Strikes Back

Bio: This Rebel Alliance Chief Communications Officer remains at her post until the final evacuation from Hoth, relaying attack commands to the Rebel Forces.  (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

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

Commentary: New-to-action-figure characters are scarce.   As of wave 4, The Black Series had a grand total of 3 never-before-action-figure characters in the line.   Toryn Farr is the first new non-exclusive Original Trilogy figure character since 2012.   The last new-to-modern figure was Lumat in late 2012, while the newest all-new original trilogy single-carded figure to never see a toy release before Ms. Farr was the Mon Calamari Rebel Pilot of February 2012, and the last all-new original character to get a toy debut that actually appears in the movies was (Jeepers Creepers) Bom Vimdin, way back around July of 2011.  So kids, if we're talking about screen-used original trilogy characters, it has been three years since the last completely new, fresh, unquestionably you-don't-have-it-in-any-form introduction.  This, friends, is why the 6-inch line interests me so much.


Believe it or not, Toryn Farr has been requested by some fans over the last few years.  She sat at a communication station on Hoth, and she didn't even have a name until Decipher made a card of her in 1996.  For this reason, Hasbro wisely took a shortcut when making her and took the Hoth Leia body from 2010 and gave her a new head, new forearms, and a new vest. The hands are un-gloved, and not just Leia's hands painted a fleshy color - kudos, Hasbro.  The jump suit is what we old, jaded fans call "close enough."  A certain quantity of reuse is more or less expected, so the missing cylinders and a different neck closing are things we just have to deal with - it's probably not worth tens of thousands of dollars to tool new arms and new torsos for Hasbro for a character like this.  The head sculpt is new and good - she looks like a cousin of Mon Mothma, and while she doesn't seem quite as youthful as her on-screen inspiration she's still quite good.  The headphones are a perfect fit, and the gun is a rough fit in her hands - you can get it in there, but it's a struggle.  She can sit, she can stand, she has a 2009 copyright stamped on her person.  Overall it's a clever reuse of an existing mold, and certainly more than good enough for my needs.   There are so few ladies of which to make toys in the original films, anything is always welcomed.  

The eye paint on Ms. Farr is arguably the best of the new heads of the wave, and I really think the reddish brown color is perfect.  Also perfect: a tiny little badge on her vest.  The paint job is tight and clean, worthy of praise and another great new figure.   Old school fans won't have long to wait for the next all-new character - Sgt. Doallyn is due in wave 5, and R5-G19 is supposedly still on deck for this year too.   And then... who knows?  So buy Toryn Farr, trilogy fans, because Hasbro isn't giving you a lot of all-new opportunities to show your support for this great line.  Granted, there aren't too many left - that's what happens after a couple thousand plastic men.

Collector's Notes: This figure started shipping from online toy stores late in June 2014.  At press time I have not heard of him showing up in big box shops.

--Adam Pawlus


Day 2,087: July 2, 2014

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 2,086: Yoda (The Black Series 2014)

YODA Dagobah
The Black Series 3 3/4-Inch Basic Figures
Item No.:
Asst. A5077 No. A5632
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: Black Series #22
Includes: Gimer stick, training backpack, flute, cloth robe
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $10.99
Availability: June 2014
Appearances: The Empire Strikes Back

Bio: A wise and powerful Jedi Master, Yoda takes on the training of young Luke Skywalker, who comes to the planet Dagobah to learn the ways of the Force.  (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

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

Commentary: Since his debut in 1980, Yoda has had quite a few figures for a character with basically 1 1/2-costumes at best when it comes to the movies.  If you want to feel really old, the last all-new sculpts for original trilogy-specific Yoda figures were in 2004 for The Original Trilogy Collection, when we got a really nice $5 basic version and an arguably not-so-nice $10 "Vintage" version.   This figure is somewhere in between those two - actually, it's probably closer in tone to the 1980 original.   Yoda has but 5 joints, a cloth robe, a belt, a cane, a sack, and a removable neck flute.  The sculpt is OK, but the robe is put on so poorly that you will need to take off the robe and futz with it to get it to look semi-decent.  And truth is that it can be made to look semi-decent rather easily - it isn't great, but the problem is Hasbro has to see the light that cloth accessories at a 3 3/4-inch scale are a dubious proposition.   When you have a character that never really needs to sit like Empire's Yoda, a sculpted version is arguably better - and also easily available between the 2004 Original Trilogy Collection version, and the Jedi Training on Dagobah Battle Pack (2007-2009).  But, I digress.


The sculpt of this Yoda feels a little smaller than previous releases, and he earns points for that.  The figure was clearly designed to sit in a backpack and wrap his arms around Luke's shoulders, like in the training scenes in the movie.   He does this well - the included knapsack is a little too large and baggy to really click for me, especially when compared to the streamlined 2004 version.   It does fit on Luke just fine, and  Yoda fits in without a hitch.  It is functional as all get out, but gosh is it enormous.  I have some giant canvas tote bags and I think this is scaled larger than those are.   The straps fit Luke perfectly, and the buckle not only works but looks good.  Hasbro deserves a medal for that.  It's not easy to do, let alone do without being clunky or baggy.

Yoda's flute fits perfectly around his neck, the cane fits perfectly in his hand, and the figure's face sculpt is good.  Luke with Luke there's a tiny bit too much white paint on his eyes, but he's sad-eyed and has a lot of personality.  The fact he has been downgraded to 5 points of articulation at his price point just plain hurts, mostly because we've seen more with older figures - of course, Yoda's more stable here, but I don't think we really got our money's worth.  The cloth robes obfuscate the rather nice sculpt, and are a little too clean.  Soft goods work great for prequel Yoda since he's not a mud hobo, but this version should be a little dirtier or more torn up - and for the money, I have to assume it could be done.  It just wasn't.  The robes fit fairly well if you're patient, but I'm not, and I kind of want my figures to look good before I open the card - I'm not a carded collector... but I feel for those of you who are.

New fans will probably love it - it's a nice Yoda!  Those of us who have bought over 20 Yodas may look at this and prefer older ones, despite the fact Hasbro did make something quite good here.  The sideburns on Yoda look a little funky - it seems they painted bare skin and not sculpted hair - but maybe it's just mine.  If you've got money to spare, the combination of Yoda and Luke is pretty good and worth a look.  Luke in particular is a milestone that fans will likely be mad Hasbro won't reach for again - it's so obviously someone pulling out all the stops, while Yoda seems like someone pulled out a couple of stops.  There's nothing really terrible about this Yoda beyond the price and the baggy backpack - the figure's good, the accessories all fit, and it's friggin' Yoda.  It doesn't matter if you hate him - if he hits stores, casual fans will buy it if you pass.

Collector's Notes: This figure started shipping from online toy stores late in June 2014.  At press time I have not heard of him showing up in big box shops.

--Adam Pawlus


Day 2,086: July 1, 2014

Monday, June 30, 2014

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 2,085: Luke Skywalker (The Black Series 2014)

LUKE SKYWALKER Dagobah
The Black Series 3 3/4-Inch Basic Figures
Item No.:
Asst. A5077 No. A5631
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: Black Series #21
Includes: Alternate jointed hands, lightsaber, hilt, blaster, removable holster
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: $10.99
Availability: June 2014
Appearances: The Empire Strikes Back

Bio: Guided by a message from Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke flies to the planet Dagobah to continue his Jedi training with a mysterious Jedi Master named Yoda.  (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

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

Commentary: For those of you keeping track,  Luke Skywalker is a pretty ballsy jump forward with what a 3 3/4-inch Star Wars figure can be, borrowing heavily from what Hasbro has done with Marvel over the last few years.   Also, as a June release it's worth noting that the last 3 3/4-inch case of The Black Series was December - six whole months between waves is a very long time and the next new wave is expected in July (at press time, anyway.)   This wave has 2 reruns, 3 all-new sculpts, and a nice tweaked version of a previous figure to make a new character.   Dagobah Luke is (at my count) at least the fourth "modern" version of the figure since his to debut in 1996, and he's an impressive specimen - but maybe not the best option for a display.

One complaint I have about features is that the more you have, the more opportunities there are for mistakes.   Thankfully, when it comes to Luke's articulation there's none better and no problems.  He's on par with Hasbro's finest 3 3/4-inch Spider-Man figure, except Luke has single-jointed knees and not double.  This is nothing to sneeze at - the arm joints look about as good as you can expect out of human flesh arms, and the figure has (depending on how you count) 26 joints... or can be moved at about 18 different spots on his body.  So any way you slice it, he's still the best-articulated Luke figure of all time.   Hiding joints is difficult, particularly on fleshy arms or legs - at this scale, you're going to notice rivets and such.  It's a trade-off... if you want a joint-free set of arms, get the very good 2004 Original Trilogy Collection Dagobah Luke - he has swappable arms and heads, plus (if you ask me) looks better as a display item.  This new one lets you pose the figure, which means you get to spend a few minutes with the ankles and knees getting the "sweet spot" so he doesn't topple over when Yoda is in the backpack.   It's imperfect - cool, but not as simple and elegant as the 2004 solution.


The sculpting is about as good as you might expect, and Luke's head is not the horror show of the early stock photos of the packaged product.  There's a tiny bit too much white in the eyes, but it's an improvement over what many of us have feared.  He looks a little more haggard and tired from his training with more lines near his eyes too, and I suspect that the paintjob could be improved on a rerelease and this would look like a more perfect figure.  His hands can hold his lightsaber (or not, if you use the open ones) and the holster can hold the blaster too.  Unlike some other figures, you get a lot for your $11 and I doubt you'll feel short-changed as piece count goes.


But is it perfect?  No.  I've got two complaints I consider to be valid.

Valid Complaint #1: Luke's lateral leg articulation - which works great, and legs him sit in vehicles or stand with ease - has flesh colored rings viewable from the sides.  Ugly, and something that should have been caught and corrected before the first unit shipped.  Valid Complaint #2: Luke has a lightsaber hilt, and a belt designed to carry a hilt.  The two cannot interact - the belt has a peg looking for a loop, and the lightsaber has a beg looking for a hole.   I suspect this was a result of a communication issue and the wrong hilt was included, but the point remains that it doesn't quite work right.

Dagobah Luke is without question the most poseable version of the outfit (and indeed the character) at this scale, as most Dagobah Lukes clock out at under 10 joints per.  I appreciate the figure having the rocker ankles, bend-and-swivel wrists on all 4 hands, and double-jointed elbows that can kinda, almost hold on to the training backpack (sold separately with Yoda) straps.   This is a very ambitious figure and shows Hasbro did put a lot of thought and love into the design.  The execution?  Well, that could be better.   Either way, it's the wave's gem and I suspect he could very well be the peak of what Hasbro can do at this scale at this price point.


Collector's Notes: This figure started shipping from online toy stores late in June 2014.  At press time I have not heard of him showing up in big box shops.

--Adam Pawlus


Day 2,085: June 30, 2014

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 2,084: Snowtrooper (Saga Legends 2014)

SNOWTROOPER Hothilicious
2013 Darth Vader Lava Line Look Saga Legends
Item No.:
Asst. A3857 No. A6135
Number: #SL16
Includes: Blaster, backpack
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: CDN $6.99
Availability: May 2014 (Canada)
Appearances: The Empire Strikes Back

Bio: Snowtroopers wear specialized white armor that protects them from freezing climates and provides camouflage on snow-covered worlds.  Geared for battle, Snowtroopers attack and destroy the Rebels' hidden base on the ice-covered planet Hoth.  (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

Availability: At press time there is no concrete evidence of US-packaged figures on the market.   To date it appears that it is debuting in Canada, so keep an eye overseas.  I have not yet seen one in any packaging on eBay or Amazon.

Commentary: We've seen a lot of Snowtrooper figures, but this may be my favorite.  The super-articulated Vintage The Saga Collection figure is OK, but bulky and his hat falls off.  The 2003 Saga one had an awesome firing tripod cannon, but not a lot of articulation.  And the 1997 one, well, he couldn't sit.  There have been many of these, but I think this one offers the most as far as standing around goes.    He really does look like a modernized take on the 1980 action figure.

While Hasbro created a figure with the perfect clearance to sit, the wrap around his legs is just bulky enough to cause him to fail the Landspeeder Test.   I tried a smattering of vehicles, and found he could sit in the new, smaller Revenge of the Sith Jedi Starfighter without too much trouble.   His range of movement is more than acceptable given the design challenge, as his head cannot move but the arms can freely rotate.  The legs come closer to a 90-degree angle than one might expect, so if I bet he could fit in my MTV-7 if I could easily find it.   Otherwise, the actual sculpting is quite good.  The boots have a little dark color on them, the knee pads are glossy, and all of the wrinkles and buttons and textures look better than previous versions.  The Vintage 2000s version had a wider mask, this one seems a little narrower than most and I think looks all the better for it.  Of course, according to photos, it could be more accurate - the mask should touch the shoulders it seems.

So sure, the head isn't as accurate as it could be, but it feels good.  That counts for a lot in my book, and I'd buy a few more of these to populate my 2010 AT-AT if given the chance.  I do not anticipate being given that chance, so I'm going to be happy with the one and presumably only version of this mold I'll probably ever see.   You would have loved buying these for $6 at the store, but like the Stormtrooper before it you're probably going to have to rely on help or just live in another country where this figure is more common.  Looking ahead it seems that Saga Legends will continue with Rebels characters and a good smattering of Original Trilogy Empire troops, which, really, what more could you ask for?  I'd love more AT-AT Drivers, TIE Pilots, Stormtroopers, and six bucks a whack - especially if they can fit in the vehicles.

Collector's Notes: I have seen no online pre-sells for US packaging.  This pattern - Canadian or European releases followed by a US release much, much later - has happened a few times with Transformers lately, but there have also been quite a figure figures that started out in Europe and stayed there.   I'm not seeing on eBay, nor Amazon, so while it could just be early my paranoia kicked in early.

--Adam Pawlus


Day 2,084: June 5, 2014

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 2,083: Darth Maul (Saga Legends 2014)

DARTH MAUL Sith Lord
2013 Darth Vader Lava Line Look Saga Legends
Item No.:
Asst. A3857 No. A6137
Number: #SL15
Includes: Lightsaber
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: CDN $6.99
Availability: May 2014 (Canada)
Appearances: The Phantom Menace

Bio: Sith Lord Darth Maul emerges from the shadows to reveal the ominous presence of the Sith, who use the dark side of the Force and are enemies of the Jedi.  Maul duels Qui-Gon Jinn on Tatooine and finishes that Lightsaber duel, with deadly results, on Naboo.   (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

Availability: At press time there is no concrete evidence of US-packaged figures on the market.   To date it appears that it is debuting in Canada, so keep an eye overseas.  I have not yet seen one in any packaging on eBay or Amazon.

Commentary: At no point did I start 2014 saying "gee, I wish I had another Darth Maul figure."  I have plenty - so do you.  2012 got us the Vintage Collection version which is good, but it turns out that even though we got a swell simplified one in a 3-pack there was still room for improvement.  Hasbro did a bang-up job on this guy since he stands fairly well.  The design is exquisite - Hasbro put a lot of thought into making this guy interesting for anybody.  The right hand is rotated slightly, giving him a unique offensive pose while not giving him a wonky arm when he isn't holding his weapon.  The left hand is more or less normal, allowing him to hold the blade in a not-too-fun format.  It's good for display shelves, but not fun - so really, this figure was designed with a lot of people in mind.

Darth Maul's bulky costume won't allow him to pass the Landspeeder Test, but he can fit in the Hasbro Sith Infiltrator vehicle.  That's what really matters - he fits, and he fits well.   The detailing on the robe is good, on par with Hasbro's recent better efforts.   The gloves and boots aren't terribly glossy, but they do shine enough to be interesting.  I really like the head sculpt - the horns are painted well, the face is fierce and determined, and they don't show any teeth here for once.  His face tattoos are bright and neatly applied, plus his lightsaber has a silver grip with a few red buttons on it.    This may not be all you want in a Maul, but it's certainly everything you need.  I'm pleased to have such a figure that can look good, sit, and stand without a fuss - Hasbro did a great job here.   Well, they did a great job designing, decorating, and creating it.  Getting it to you, the consumer, will hopefully get better in the coming months because man, this is a nice one.

Collector's Notes: I have seen no online pre-sells for US packaging.  This pattern - Canadian or European releases followed by a US release much, much later - has happened a few times with Transformers lately, but there have also been quite a figure figures that started out in Europe and stayed there.   I'm not seeing on eBay, nor Amazon, so while it could just be early my paranoia kicked in early.

--Adam Pawlus


Day 2,083: June 4, 2014

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 2,082: Luke Skywalker (Saga Legends 2014)

LUKE SKYWALKER Jedi Knight
2013 Darth Vader Lava Line Look Saga Legends
Item No.:
Asst. A3857 No. A5917
Number: #SL14
Includes: Lightsaber
Action Feature: n/a
Retail: CDN $6.99
Availability: May 2014 (Canada)
Appearances: Return of the Jedi

Bio:Luke goes to the second Death Star for a final confrontation with Darth Vader.  When Luke refuses to turn to the dark side, a devastating Lightsaber battle ensues between father and son! (Taken from the figure's cardback.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

Availability: At press time there is no concrete evidence of US-packaged figures on the market.   To date it appears that it is debuting in Canada, so keep an eye overseas.  I have not yet seen one in any packaging on eBay or Amazon.

Commentary: As a kid I wanted Luke Skywalker figures.  I had most of them as the line went on, but I didn't get some until years later.  This white-flapped Death Star version of Luke didn't even exist as a figure for quite some time, so seeing it today as a 5-jointed throwback is a real treat.   The sculpt is good, the paint is acceptable, and the ability to sit is good enough.  He has no problems standing, so he's a winner in my book.

The first thing I noticed about this figure is that the eye paint wasn't as perfect as I might like - it's not the worst Jedi Luke, but well, there's some real zingers in there.  His eye paint in this version is just a tiny bit too much - the top of the eyes seems to be painted larger than the eye sculpt, but the sculpt itself is exquisite.  There's a subtle mole on his left cheek I didn't notice until I put him under my desk lamp, with another similar marking just under his right eye.   The chin is good, the hair is good, really this figure is a redeco away form being excellent.  The torso is glossy and the limbs are more matte, with a white shirt flap.  The right glove, boots, and belt are glossy which was a real surprise for the so-called discount figure range, and this is certainly the best action figure Margaret Keane ever designed.

Luke's sculpt is pretty simple - he's skinny, and the outfit is more or less what you'd want in this figure.  I'm certainly satisfied with various silver snaps and buttons on his belt, giving the figure a little more detail than I would have expected.  He has no problem holding his green lightsaber, which has a silver grip and that gold bit near the emitter.   The flare on the blade seems more subtle than usual, too.  The figure passes the Landspeeder Test, so he may be a good vehicle pilot if you can find one.   It's a good figure if you like this kind of toy - and I do.  If you don't, well, I guess it won't matter to you that he isn't easy to get right now.   I'm glad I got one, and I hope Hasbro makes more figures similar to him in the future.

Collector's Notes: I have seen no online pre-sells for US packaging.  This pattern - Canadian or European releases followed by a US release much, much later - has happened a few times with Transformers lately, but there have also been quite a figure figures that started out in Europe and stayed there.   I'm not seeing on eBay, nor Amazon, so while it could just be early my paranoia kicked in early.

--Adam Pawlus


Day 2,082: June 3, 2014