Friday, May 29, 2015

Star Wars Figure of the Day: Day 2,161: Darth Vader (Dagobah Test - The Black Series 2015)

DARTH VADER Dagobah Test
The Black Series   Basic Figure
Item No.:
Asst. A5077 No. A8058
Manufacturer: Hasbro
Number: #07
Includes: Mask piece, lightsaber, cape, removable head
Action Feature: Removable mask
Retail: $12.99
Availability: May 2015
Appearances: The Empire Strikes Back

Bio: During his training on Dagobah, Luke duels an apparition of Darth Vader, but is shocked to see his own face inside the helmet, not Vader's. (Taken from the figure's packaging.)

Image: Adam's photo lab.

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

Commentary:  This figure I'm going to take two perspectives - one as "Is this a good item?" and one as "does this item need to exist?"   Darth Vader figures are an important part of the Star Wars marketing machine - my feeling is that, on the whole, your success is entirely based on if you have one for sale.  No Vader?  People don't care.  He must be in rotation, and 3 3/4-inch Darth Vader figures are being updated on a regular basis. 

The last The Black Series release was based on the 2005 Evolutions Darth Vader, and so is this one - except as far as I can tell, this one has fewer new parts.  The hands and body all seem to be basically the original figure, and now there's a new cape and a new head.  The chest deco is improved, still being basically the same as the 2013 The Black Series torso.   With 14 points of articulation, there's really no getting past the fact that Hasbro is saying "We basically got it right 10 years ago, so here it is again with a new head sporting an action feature."  The helmet sculpt unto itself is pretty good - the mask fits over fairly well, but you can see a glimmer of the flesh paint through a crack in the helmet.  The form fit is very obvious - you can see the cracks in the helmet - but I'm pretty sure the intent of the figure is to pop off the figure's head at the neck peg and leave it on the ground. 

It pops out without too much fuss, and in my case the figure decapitated itself while removing it from the bubble.  His left hand has no problems holding his lightsaber, but when fully assembled this Darth Vader looks a little wonky - my sample tilts to his left a bit, plus the neck seems overly long compared to other Darth Vader figures I own (all of them).  The cape design is different from most, in that the silver fake "chain" holds the neck in place rather than a piece of black elastic.   Overall Hasbro made a decent remold of one of their greatest achievements for the character, but by now you may have as many as a half dozen (slightly) different takes on Dagobah Vader including the variations.  It's a very decent figure and if you don't already own a blown-off-head-Luke-faced-Vader, this is a perfectly good one.   I would probably steer you toward the Dagobah Battle Packs, or the pretty slick 2001 original.   If you got the 2013 figure which also used this body, you should be all set.

Having said that, I don't need it.  At all.   It's not really a big improvement, and I think Hasbro probably wasted resources adding the new head when they could repackage a previous release and it'd sell to the carded crowd.  It would also sell to the "I just want a Darth Vader" crowd.   For a company that reminds us regularly of their need to conserve resources on a collector's line, I get annoyed when I see them spend money here - and come up with something that isn't very good - when they could just as easily do nothing and sell a ton of them in a new package.   Hasbro had great success repackaging the 2013 Mission Series Darth Vader a few times, and you never see it hang - the same would be true here.   They're just flushing money down the toilet on a figure that I don't think collectors will appreciate upon removal from the packaging.  You've basically got this one, and the Evolution set versions cost about the same and come with 2 or 3 more figures.  That long streak of complaints is basically me shaking my fist at a cloud, though, because we all know Hasbro cannot make a Darth Vader figure on an individual card that will not sell very well and probably outsell every other figure in the wave.

With that in mind, I put it to you like this - if you have every Darth Vader, why stop now? Get this one.  If you just want one, keep in mind that the body for this release has been used as the basis for a few others.  I strongly suggest you get those first, mostly because they offer more for your money.  If you're at a store and you want a figure for your desk at work, and this is the only Vader you see, you can do worse.  But don't by it for a kid if you can get the Evolution pack online for $17-$20 instead, and honestly you should just buy that for yourself too.  This is great if you need to buy something because you have to buy something, but it does show that Hasbro may need prodding with how it allocates its development resources during a drought.

Collector's Notes: I got this one from Entertainment Earth, and I saw some case residue last weekend - unsold Stormtroopers were at Toys R Us already.   Good hunting!

--Adam Pawlus

Day 2,161: May 29, 2015

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