Friday, November 28, 2014

Toy Review – Star Wars Black Friday!

See what I did there?

I wanted to do something kind of special today since we didn’t post yesterday and Black Friday is sort of a significant day. I don’t typically venture out on Black Friday (although I will be hitting the local independent record store to pick up some Record Store Day releases), but I appreciate the madness that happens between the Friday after Thanksgiving and the following Monday, now known as Cyber Monday.

I am a consumer in a very frank and wholehearted manner. I like buying stuff. I like commerce. I am a firm believer in Capitalism and the free market. And Black Friday weekend is a crazy, fun reminder of what all of those things mean. Businesses do their best to convince consumers that they are offering the best value. There are innumerable methods to attract customers this weekend – discounts, loss leaders, the promise of future rewards, offering the ability to shop at odd hours, and so much more. Retailers will employ whichever method they think will work to get dollars. Meanwhile, I’ll be at an independent record store because I know the customer service will be great and there will be exciting products there that nobody else will have.

But today’s post isn’t really about any of that. It’s about the fact that even though I actively collect the 3.75” scale Star Wars Black series, I never review them. Before I get into the meat of today’s post – reviews of several SWB figures - I want to take a look at that.

It’s not just Star Wars figures, either. I don’t ever review GI Joes and I’m still buying those regularly. I know Jonathan is annoyed that I’m not reviewing them. And I feel kind of bad about that because GI Joe is my toy line. It’s my favorite. But there’s something that Star Wars and GI Joe have in common that I think contributes to me not writing reviews – they’ve both been around for decades. And while the lines have changed significantly over the years, reviews still essentially boil down to whether or not the figure looks like I think it should and how many places it bends.

Now, an argument could be made that all action figure reviews are basically like that. But when I’ve opened and posed hundreds of the same scale and style of figure, it gets old. It’s not exciting. How many times can I say, “I really wish they’d painted the ankle joints”?

Hasbro has the 3.75” scale nailed. Whether it’s Joe or Star Wars, within each line every figure is pretty much the same. Unless there’s a glaring paint error they’re all “4”s. 
But in the interest of providing something neat today, I’m going to do mini reviews of several of the newest SWB figures I’ve picked up lately. The line has gotten a good bit more exciting over the past couple of months and there’s some cool stuff to look at. Today’s final figure is, in particular, very interesting.

Side Note: There’s this closeout store called Ollie’s over by Gwinnett Place Mall in Duluth, GA. I went there the other day for the first time and found all of the GI Joe figures I had been looking for – the Data Viper and the new versions of Storm Shadow, Snake Eyes, Cobra Commander, and Firefly. And they were four dollars each.

Ollie’s had tons of toys for super cheap, and a lot of stuff like those Joes that seemingly never made it to retail. Or at least, not in any significant distribution. If you have an Ollie’s near you, go check it out. They also had a pretty good supply of Marvel Legends for eight bucks apiece.


I’ll just cover each figure’s package here since there are only two varieties and they’re both blister cards.

The initial Star Wars Black cardback was designed to be very different from the recently ended 3.75” line that it was replacing. The flat black card with the orange highlights and grey graphics was striking and effective. And also maybe a little dull. I do like the uniform artwork on the back of the cards:

As well as the brief bio.

The newer releases maintain the black and grey aesthetic, but replace the orange with blue, which I think looks much nicer. Also, instead of the plain, rectangular card the back is now cut in the shape of a TIE Fighter Pilot’s helmet. It’s kind of an odd choice, but it looks great and has a cool profile. The oxygen tubes on the lower sides keep the bottom of the card from being dull. Additionally, the grey on the new cards is a bit lighter and stands out more.
In the end, these all get thrown in my trash can, so the packaging isn’t a huge deal. But I do enjoy considering the impact at retail in an aisle full of toys.

#17 - Vizam

If you’re like me, you had no idea there were so many skiff guards.

I mean, on an unconscious level of course I knew it. Luke, Lando, and Chewie kill a bunch of dudes over the Pit of Carkoon. But I never really thought about it until guys like Vizam – who fall outside of the classic trio of Klaatu, Barada, and Nikto – started coming out in the Black line.

Vizam looks great and stands out well on a shelf full of similarly sized aliens. The pastels in his clothing look good. The most outstanding thing about this guy is his paint job. He looks nice and weathered and dirty, like a criminal that lives on a desert planet should. 
Unfortunately, Vizam has what is a common problem in Star Wars figures these days – joints that do not match the surrounding areas. His knees and ankles are blue plastic and they look terrible. I understand that this is a cost thing, but I still find it inexcusable.

The articulation is great, with all of the swivels and pivots and joints you’ve come to expect from this line. Vizam can do everything you might want one of Jabba’s goons to do, including hold his giant cannon that should be attached to a skiff or sail barge anyway.

Side Note: I wish there was some possibility of Hasbro releasing a 3.75” scale Sail Barge. I feel like that’s one of the big, glaring holes in the history of the Star Wars toy line. It is a far more integral set piece than the Ewok village, but we’ve never seen any kind of toy version. Now that Hasbro has launched that dumb Hero starship line that doesn’t even interact with action figures, I think our chances of a good Sail Barge are pretty much gone. If only they had released Jabba’s mobile HQ instead of that asinine Battle Droid drop ship. Who the heck thought that thing was a good idea?

Vizam comes with a blaster, a hat, and a cannon. The blaster fits into his holster or his hand quite nicely. The hat didn’t need to be removable, but it is and that’s neat. It stays put fairly well. The cannon has been included with other figures and can snap onto the railing of the skiff that was released years ago. It’s odd that they still use this accessory given the age of the skiff toy and the unlikelihood of a sail barge ever being released. But it’s a really cool cannon, so I’m happy to have another one.

Vizam is a pretty solid ten dollar figure. I still feel like ten bucks is steep for this scale, but that’s where we are now. If you want figures in this scale, that’s what you’re paying. If it weren’t for the mismatched knee and ankle joints, Vizam would be perfect.

4 out of 5

#04 – Darth Malgus

I wish Hasbro hadn’t started the numbering over again with the launch of the blue Black waves. I don’t know why they did.

I also don’t know who Darth Malgus is. I mean, I’ve heard the name because I do keep up with Star Wars stuff, but I haven’t read or played whatever he’s from. He’s an Old Republic guy and that’s an era I haven’t delved into much aside from playing a few hours of Knights of the Old Republic.

None of that really matters, though, because this guy looks awesome. He basically looks like somebody reimagined Darth Vader as a video game boss, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He’s got a grey bodysuit and all kinds of detail on his various pieces of armor plating. The red bits – presumably meant to be lights – are a nice touch that break up the darker tones. His chestplate has what looks like Gallifreyan writing on it. His head is a nice combination of beat up and menacing. I don’t know if this guy got burned like Vader, electrocuted like (Sheev) Palpatine, or what, but it’s a good, Sith-y look.

Malgus has all of the standard joints of a Star Wars figure of this size. A size which, may I say, never seems to have any problems with stuck joints or limbs simply tearing right off. This figure’s head pops off so you can remove his chest armor if you’re so inclined.

He comes with a lightsaber hilt, an ignited lightsaber, and a hooded cloak. The hilt plugs into a hole on Malgus’ belt. The ignited saber fits in either hand; or both. The hooded cloak has a wire in it so you can position it on the figure. I have no idea if I have done this correctly, but it looks pretty cool.

Darth Malgus is a cool looking Sith Lord. Or Grand Master. Or whatever he is. I don’t make a point of collecting Old Republic era stuff, but this guy is going to look good on my Sith shelf with all of the other Darths. Plus, he doesn’t have any ugly, mismatched joints.

5 out of 5

#18 Darth Plagueis

Out of all of the Darths, Plagueis has the worst name. There’s just nothing cool about plagues. 
This is the guy that (Sheev) Palpatine was telling Anakin about at the space blob opera. The one that discovered the secrets of extended life and killed his master. Or Palpatine killed him; I can’t remember. I just know I like this guy because he’s a Muun. I know that’s weird because the Muuns resemble Greys, which I am terrified of, but these guys look cool. I also know that he was trained in the ways of the Dark Side by Darth Tenebrous, a Bith Sith whose name basically means “Dark Darkness”, which is still not the dumbest Star Wars name ever.

Like Malgus, Plagueis has a severe case of Sith head. The weird thing is that Plagueis doesn’t have any obvious physical challenges like most of the rest of the Sith. He appears to be mostly intact and doesn’t even need any kind of breathing apparatus. The figure is nice and lanky, but still manages to stand up on its own. He’s got all of the requisite grey and black armor stuff, all detailed quite nicely. He also has a little vest.

Plagueis comes with a staff, an ignited lightsaber, a breathing mask, and a hooded cloak. The staff is actually the hilt of the lightsaber, which is very cool. He can hold it in either or both hands. The cloak is really cool from the neck down, but I can’t get that hood to do anything.

Darth Plagueis is another cool addition to the Sith shelf. He’s not very exciting, but he looks like he should and has a very cool weapon. The hood is disappointing, but otherwise this one is spot-on.

4 out of 5

#28 - Ree-Yees

Ree-Yees is one of the buttholes that hangs around Jabba’s palace, presumably leeching off of the Hutt crime lord’s hard work. I guess these guys were hoping Jabba would come up with some gangster shit for them to do. When I was a kid I didn’t think of the Ree-Yees figure as being a bad guy. He just looks too silly.

Threepio was asking for it.
This updated version looks a little more fierce than previous figures. The 1998 Power of the Force Ree-Yees looked had sort of a three-eyed donkey thing going on. I like how bulky this one is, and his massive hands are terrifying. His skin has great textures and there’s a good bit of detail in his clothing. I like the stripes down the sides of his trousers. I don’t know how accurate they are, but they’re a nice touch. 
Ree-Yees has most of the standard Star Wars 3.75” joints. Rather than a swivel waist he has a ball joint and his ankles are not articulated. That’s fine by me. Sometimes ankle joints make it more difficult to get a figure to stand. Plus, they often end up being a different color from the foot and the calf and are just eyesores. I’d rather eliminate them than have the discolored joint. 
This figure comes with two blasters. He can hold either one in either hand. They both work well with the figure (I don’t know if they’re new or if we’ve seen them before) because they don’t have trigger guards. With this Gran’s big, meaty hands there’s no way blasters with trigger guards would have worked. These fit nicely. I do kind of wish he had holsters, but at the same time that would have messed up his profile.

According to the now defunct Expanded Universe, Ree-Yees was a wanted murderer who was involved in a plot to kill Jabba with Squid-Face and the frog thing that sits outside of Jabba’s palace eating bugs. To me he will always be the asshole that uses flash photography on Star Tours. You need this figure in your collection. It’s the first Ree-Yees we’ve gotten in sixteen years (though there have been other Grans) and probably the last one we’ll see for sixteen more. He’s great.

5 out of 5

#05 – Starkiller (Galen Marek)

I haven’t played The Force Unleashed in years, but I absolutely adored that game. Most of the Star Wars video game library was embraced by the Expanded Universe to some extent, but The Force Unleashed really felt like a bridge between the EU and the movies. More so than any of its video game predecessors it had that legitimate Star Wars feel.

I still haven’t played the sequel – which I’m sure I could buy for five dollars now – because I heard it was really short. I don’t play a whole lot of video games and it’s mostly because of how expensive they are. If I’m going to drop sixty bucks on a game, I want it to last me months. But I did hear that The Force Unleashed II was good and I want to see more of the adventures of Galen Marek. 
This is a reissue of a Galen Marek figure that was produced for the Vintage line. I don’t know what happened with that one – I never saw it at retail and I don’t know if it ever even made it to widespread distribution. There were a lot of problems with some waves from the Vintage line. Like, even more than what we’ve seen with the two different scales of the Black series.

The head sculpt is identifiable as Sam Witwer, but a little too severe. Not quite as good as the older figures that were released when the game came out. That Evolutions 3-pack that Hasbro put out is an essential in my opinion. The figure’s base Imperial jumpsuit is very cool. The Toys R Us I got this from had two Starkillers and I kind of wish I’d gotten both of them just to use the jumpsuit. I’ve got enough spare heads laying around. Of course, the neck pegs on Star Wars figures are all kinds of different sizes, so there’s no telling if I’ll be able to match an appropriate head.

Obviously Marek has all of the standard articulation, so I’m not going to bother with that.

He comes with a ton of stuff – a backpack, two belt pieces, chest armor, a pair of gauntlets, two lightsaber hilts, and two ignited lightsabers. All of this essentially creates three different looks for the figure, each of which is a worthy figure on its own. I’m pretty sure they’re all from the second game. I guess it’s really two and a half looks, but to me he seems different enough without any waist accessories.

All of the paint on the figure looks good except for what’s on the head. It’s kind of minimal up there. And those eyebrows… those are something else. The rest looks great. The jumpsuit has a clean paint job with Imperial insignias and the open chest panel. The gloves, boots, and armor are all clean. All of the accessories look great, as well.

Each of the pieces interacts nicely with the figure. The wide belt with the straps hanging off of it ops open, but it can also just slide up the figure’s legs. The other belt just slides on. The gauntlets snap on securely. And the lightsabers fit perfectly into the hands. The waist piece with the loin cloth (purely because it looks cool – I can’t imagine what practical purpose a loin cloth serves over a military flight suit) has a hole in the belt to store one of the saber hilts.

Overall this figure is a lot of fun and looks great. The head could look better and could certainly stand to be more Witwer-esque, but it’s still a very solid addition to the surprisingly large collection of Galen Marek figures. If I see another one, I’ll buy it. There’s enough here to justify the ten dollar price tag.

4 out of 5

Everybody have a fun and safe weekend! If you’re going out shopping, watch out for all of the lunatics on the road. Don’t get in fights over dumb shit.

If you’re not going out shopping, go to the Needless Things Amazon Store and help us out! starting with these guys:

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