The Vintage Collection Basic Figures
Item No.: Asst. 37499 No. 37509
Includes: Plastic hood, cloth cloak, two-piece lightsaber, lightsaber hilt, binoculars
Action Feature: Lightsaber splits down the middle
Availability: January 2012
Appearances: The Phantom Menace
Bio: Celebrate the legendary Star Wars saga that changed the universe forever! This collection brings to life the incredible story of good versus evil that captured our imagination and took us to a galaxy far, far away. Iconic Star Wars heroes and villains are captured with incredible detail and premium features to commemorate each epic tale in the Star Wars saga. May the Force be with you! (Taken from the figure's packaging. No specific character information.)
Image: Adam Pawlus' photo area.
Commentary: An upgrade of Darth Maul was a long time coming, Hasbro's last attempt to "perfect" the figure was in the 2005 Evolutions packs, and fans said back then that Hasbro came up short. They were right. The new one manages to make a Darth Maul with the bulk of the important features of the day, but it still isn't quite perfect-- it's very good, but it could still be improved. For starters, he's assembled with his belt backward.
The figure's articulation is as good as Hasbro will likely be able to do with today's technology. He has ball-jointed everything, except for his wrists-- they merely swivel, which is something they could probably have improved upon. I know it sounds nitpicky, but this isn't a vintage Mon Mothma, it's Darth "Cash Cow" Maul, the figure you know you can sell forever and keep repackaging long after fans claim they're sick of it-- there is always a new crop of kids and fans who want Darth Maul. He can hold his lightsaber fairly nicely, but I feel the range of movement should be improved still-- it's good, and certainly the best Maul has ever been. But "the best it's ever been" isn't necessarily good enough in the age of $10 figures.
I still feel the best 3 3/4-inch scale Darth Maul, visually, is the Tatooine Showdown release. It's over 10 years old, significantly cheaper, and has a less-impressive weapon. But for my money, there's no finer Darth Maul to have on display-- his plastic robes look significantly better than the tattered robes of the new release, which, functionally speaking, are quite nice.
New Maul's accessories are pretty good-- Hasbro seems to have made peace with the concept of plastic hoods and cloth robes, which gives the head a decent look while allowing for a good range of movement. I don't think the robes accurately represent the costume in the movie, though-- they were pretty funky, with huge sleeves and other swell patterns completely ignored by this one. The lightsaber finally has a flared blade, which has only happened on one other release-- the 2002 Sith Training Robes version, and that had a metal hilt. It splits in two, which is nice for any Jedi Dueling you may do. The unlit hilt can plug into his belt, and the Macrobinoculars look like they should plug into something but they really don't do much interesting. Other than, you know, holding them.
Carded collectors: get this figure. Loose collectors: you'll probably want to get this figure, as his ball-jointed hips and cloth bits are nicely poseable. But in most respects, I don't feel that it's a vastly improved piece... it's good, no questions there. The droid control gauntlet is a nice touch. But the head is merely OK, the hood doesn't look quite right, and all of these things add up to (I'm assuming) unsatisfied fans demanding a revised version of the character, which we'll probably see in a couple of years. Maul is a cash cow that Hasbro hasn't milked much since the 2006 Holographic Darth Maul.
Collector's Notes: This figure will be shipping with at least 2 waves, beyond that we actually just don't know yet. I assume this figure will be in steady distribution for most of 2012, because like Darth Vader or General Grievous, to not sell it would be to leave lots of money on the table. Nobody wins when you make one of the most popular characters hard to find. Hasbro has done some pretty senseless things when it comes to distributing popular characters, but this is the Darth Maul To End All Darth Mauls. Basically.
Day 1,738: February 10, 2012