Star Wars Action Figures

Yodasnews Review:  Asajj Ventress (Sideshow Exclusive Edition)

Review and Photography by Jeffrey A. Gouse (SithLord0498) 

Review Date: October 3, 2007

In the wake of Attack of the Clones, the Republic and the Jedi Order found themselves embroiled in the brutal galaxy-wide Clone Wars, spearheaded by Count Dooku and secretly masterminded by Darth Sidious.  As stated in the Episode III opening crawl, heroes were everywhere, but that is clearly contingent upon one’s point of view.  Through the Separatists’ prism, one such valiant heroine would undoubtedly be the Dark Side disciple Asajj Ventress.

 The second female in Sideshow Collectibles’ 1/6th scale Star Wars line, Ventress has been a long time coming.  Nearly one year between pre-order and delivery in fact.  She was also the character expected to win the official Sideshow poll for the first Expanded Universe figure.  Ventress was such a sure bet that her prototype was well into development when Padme Amidala (Ilum Mission) pulled off a surprise upset victory. 

So much for the winner being first, eh? 

While Asajj Ventress may not have been the poll winner, she was definitely an anticipated entry in the Star Wars line.  How does she fare though?  It’s a mixed bag, but there are clearly more positives in the final analysis. 

Sit back and relax as we take a closer look at the latest entry in the Lords of the Sith line: Asajj Ventress (Sideshow Exclusive Edition).

 

Portrait – Animated Version (Standard)Excellent 

Asajj Ventress, being both the first figure from the Expanded Universe and one not yet portrayed by any flesh and blood human, enjoys a fair amount of leniency when being evaluated in the portrait category.  The standard Ventress portrait is modeled on the character’s appearance in Clone Wars Volume 1, and the features are very basic: smooth porcelain-like skin, no hair, solid white eyes, and no markings of any kind. 

Yet sculptor Andy Bergholtz took that blank canvas and infused enough subtleties into the shape and expression to give Ventress an undercurrent of evil.  In fact, this portrait is actually the revised version of Bergholtz’s original sculpt.  After seeing the initial version, which can be seen at Bergholtz’s website, this final portrait has a more humanoid appearance and one closer to the cartoon.  On the other hand, the original had a more feral and cat-like facial structure, and it looks quite unsettling.  To see this version along with a custom paint application by fan-favorite artist Adam Hughes, click on the following link: 

http://www.absculpture.com/t1000.htm 

Since Ventress’ face is grayscale and monochromatic, the paint applications are minimal and simplistic in nature.  That also means that the slightest flaw has a greater chance of standing out and ruining the overall aesthetics.  Further adding to the risk of failure is Sideshow’s spotty quality control in this area with several previous 1/6th scale Star Wars figures.  Still, Leia/Boushh emerged from the factory with a paint application quality rivaling that of the prototype, so hopes were high for lightning to strike twice. 

And strike twice, it did.  Hard too. 

Ventress’ paint application is flawless, and that is an adjective not thrown around lightly when critiquing a higher-end collectible.  Nevertheless, it is the best description in this case.  The arched eyebrows are symmetrical, and the subtle eyeliner adds a subliminal touch of realism as well as definition.  The eyes and lips are done in glossier paints, giving a moist and natural shine to them that beautifully catches and reflects the light.  Most impressive, however, is the smooth and consistent grayish white skin tone.  The paint complements the portrait perfectly by allowing it to naturally create shadows and highlights without any splotchy patches interfering. 

But what of the comic book based portrait, which is the uber-cool exclusive accessory this time around?

 

Portrait – Comic Book Version (Exclusive Accessory)Excellent 

The exclusive comic book portrait is the exact same sculpt with different paint applications, making it a relatively easy accessory to include here.  As for the quality, it is only marginally flawed in comparison to the standard animated portrait.  The biggest glitch is actually a factory error that isn’t present on the standard head, and that is a round splotchy patch of paint in the exact center of the back of Ventress’ head.  This is the type of error referred to in the previous section that can disrupt the natural contours of the sculpted piece.  The only other issue is a slightly lazy eye caused by a misplaced white dot, which is included to simulate light reflecting off of the pupil.  This is an unnecessary application because the glossy coating on the eyes already simulates such reflective qualities. 

The two altered areas in this portrait are as exceptional as the rest of the paint applications.  The gray and black eyes are clean, crisp, and unnervingly lifelike.  There is also a thin outline of red-orange paint running along the bottom contours, which adds to the realistic eye simulation.  The eyeliner and solid black outlines around the eyes have also been removed, exposing more of the spot-on sculpting.  The second major alteration is the inclusion of Ventress’ twelve dagger-like tattoos: four on each temple and two longer ones on each cheek.  Applied with great precision, they look as though they were painted via machine as opposed to by hand.

 

 

Interchangeable Portrait System Above Average 

Coincidentally, Ventress is not only the second female in the Star Wars line, but she is also the second to utilize interchangeable portraits.  The approach used for the Princess Leia in Boushh Disguise figure was an inventive and effective adapter system.  Ventress, however, goes back to basics, eschews the entire idea of an adapter, and requires one to merely pull one head off the rounded tip of the neck joint and pop on the other head.  It sounds simple and painless enough, right? 

Unfortunately, this is not the case and for an odd reason.  Ventress’ heads are hollow and molded from a very soft rubber that squishes when pressure is applied.  This peculiar choice of material combines with an extremely secure fit between the peg and head to result in one very difficult time swapping the portraits.  The best advice is to grip the head underneath the chin and pull from there in order to remove it without compressing the heads too much. 

This system does keep a secure fit for the interchangeable portraits—no doubts there.  However, this process could have been made much easier if Sideshow had stuck with the standard harder plastic heads.  

Outfit - Soft GoodsAbove Average 

Of all the figures to date, Asajj Ventress has the fewest soft goods components covering the most area—most because her primary attire is a single form-fitting bodysuit.  Typically, such tight clothing on a female base body is met with trepidation and then cringing when the final product arrives because such clothing tends to reveal very unflattering and unfeminine gaps and joints.  Ventress, however, fills out the bodysuit better than expected.  The skirt and belt are also strategically positioned in an area where they can cover up any gaps in the hips—although this sample has zero unsightly grooves. 

The bodysuit is comprised of two very different materials, but both serve their purposes well and complement each other.  All of the black material, which includes the entire lower body, is a spandex material with a terrific degree of elasticity.  All of the lower articulation points enjoy wide ranges of unhindered movement, and the material fits well to form.  The upper body is a cotton-based material sewn together with the spandex to create one piece.  The joining is solid, and the stitching is unobtrusive.  The material also allows the upper body to flex its articulation muscles.  The ribbed pattern stretching across Ventress’ chest is realized through thicker stitches, making it very natural looking. 

There is one oddity, however.  The bodysuit has a zipper running the length of Ventress’ back, but there is no tab attached.  It cannot be unzipped.  And this isn’t sample-specific as it has been reported on other samples as well. 

In all honestly, the bodysuit would earn an “Excellent” rating if it were not for one issue: the sleeve length.  There is simply too much material, and it bunches up above the wrist gauntlets.  Tucking in the excess isn’t an option because the gauntlets are very form-fitting as well and do not allow the necessary space.  In effect, the gauntlets rule out any non-destructive fixes. 

In the end, it was either deal with the excess or take more permanent measures.  It should come as little surprise to long-time readers that I chose the riskier avenue.  The fix was quite simple though.  Take off the gauntlets, stretch the sleeves to full length, and cut them off just above the wrist peg.  The sleeves are now an appropriate length.  To further seal this fix, take thin pieces of wacky-tack, place them between the sleeves and base body’s forearms, and squeeze together.  Put the gauntlets back on, and the unnatural bunching is gone. 

The skirt is the final piece of soft goods (barring the robe) to discuss, and it is almost as impressive as the successful use of spandex in the bodysuit.  The choice of fabric has a very bandage-like texture to it, and the randomized cutting in the pattern does a respectable job of simulating tattering and crude tailoring.  The only room for improvement there would be to include a thin wire inside the hem to allow control over its sculpting—just like the wire inside the robe’s hood.

 

 

Outfit - Rubber ComponentsExcellent 

“Flexible but stable” is the central theme behind the rubber components of Ventress’ outfit, components that include the neck cuff, wrist gauntlets, and boots.  All are made from a type of rubber that maintains its shape and sculpted details exceptionally well while simultaneously permitting some degree of flexibility when required by the figure’s particular pose.  It’s not perfect, but it is a pleasant departure from the usual hard rubber and/or stiff plastic used in other Sideshow figures. 

The design used for the wrist gauntlets and neck cuff is simple but executed so well that it somehow comes off looking more intricate than it really is.  The thin ridges are spaced out in an expanding shockwave pattern, and the gauntlets are highly successful in concealing both the wrist joint and trimmed sleeve fabric—if one chooses to take the avenue described earlier. 

The boots are among the best (if not the best) seen on a Sideshow Star Wars figure to date.  Despite being molded in a very pliable rubber, they possess a healthy amount of highly detailed sculpted features such as nine straps and buckles in addition to very realistic texturing.  The only room for improvement would be making the rubber a little bit sturdier and less flexible on the soles.  Increasing the solidity of this area would provide some weight to act as an anchor for various poses.

 

Outfit - Robe:  Average (Bordering on “Above Average”) 

Ventress’ robe is just as functional and well made as any of the Jedi robes, but there is one glaring error: she wore a cloak in the cartoon series—not a robe.

And since the standard version is based on the animated version, the cloak is what should have been included.  But it is very clear that this version of Asajj Ventress is an amalgamation of various renditions of the character.  The decision to use a robe instead of a cloak, which would have been similar to the cloak used with Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker, looks to have been another choice based on artistic license.  So this score ultimately depends on one’s philosophy of how far artistic license should extend when dealing with a well-established design element.

 

 

Outfit - BeltBelow Average 

Quite frankly, the belt can’t seem to decide if it wants to be faux-vinyl or cheap saran wrap. 

Visually, it looks very attractive with a highly reflective quality to it, and the metal rings are both a nice touch and intelligent use of mixed media.  The clips hold the lightsaber hilts decently—although this sample’s clips aren’t as secure as those on Obi-Wan and Anakin.  The belt also hangs from Ventress’ waist with a high degree of realism. 

But this belt, in actuality, is just plain flimsy!  The way it feels can make someone worry that one wrong move will result in the material tearing.  The biggest failing here, however, is the system used to secure the belt into place.  Rather than a peg-based system, Sideshow used a semi-functional belt loop.  The problem is that the entire system is secured only by the pieces threaded through the buckle, and there is a very small amount of material provided for this purpose.  The result is that the entire bond unravels with extreme ease, and the belt falls right off the figure.  This is more prone to happening when the legs are being posed. 

The one upside is that there is finally something that makes Anakin’s infamous falling arm look like a masterpiece of engineering.

 

Interchangeable HandsAbove Average (Bordering on “Average”) 

Aside from the typical lightsaber grip hands, Asajj Ventress comes with one additional hand—a “Force Gesture” right hand. 

In terms of sculpting, all three hands have subtle touches such as simulated bone structure and palm lines that augment the realism.  In the case of the Force Gesture hand, the fingers are arranged in a fluid pose.  But that unique quality is the root of the flaw.  The hand is sculpted in an upward slope, which means the connection point is cut at an angle as well.  That makes the hand sit awkwardly and not flush with the wrist.  Additionally, the gray paint applied to the fingernails is inconsistent in its quality.  The majority of nails on this sample, in fact, are painted sloppier than they should be. 

Moving beyond the hands themselves, Sideshow made a puzzling design decision that negatively affects this score.  When the Star Wars figures first went into production, the traditional cone-shaped wrist peg was replaced with a rounded peg to allow easier swapping of hands.  Ventress, however, uses the old cone style, resulting in a very difficult time interchanging the right hand.  There is no obvious legitimate reason for the regression, and the feature is diminished when compared to the dozen-plus figures preceding Ventress. 

ArticulationAbove Average 

Quite frankly, Asajj Ventress has some really good flexibility, and part of the reason is there is little clothing to hinder the body’s range of motion.  Another part is likely due to reported modifications made to the female Buck body, which I suspect is meant to be a temporary stepping stone between the Buck body and the new Sideshow/Hot Toys hybrid bodies. 

Personally, the surprising standout was the mid-torso articulation.  Not only is there fantastic and unobstructed range of motion but the joint is tight and sturdy.  This allows the torso to remain twisted indefinitely.  It is a point of articulation that is essential if one wants to simulate a fluid swiping motion with a lightsaber or having Ventress flip and twist in the air—whether it is an acrobatic move or the effect of a potent Force push by an adversarial Jedi. 

The only downside is the limited range of motion found in Ventress’ neck joint.  After the fact, it wasn’t too surprising considering the neck joint on Sideshow’s female figures is different than the male joint.  With male figures, the neck is sculpted on the portrait and attached directly into a ball joint protruding from the chest cavity.  With females, the neck is part of the chest and is an immovable post, restricting movement to only the head.  That feature eliminates a large amount of movement.  This deficit should soon be extinct (hopefully) with the advent of the hybrid bodies. 

Despite this hindrance, Asajj Ventress is still a very poseable figure.

 

Design StabilityBelow Average 

Ordinarily, this section is considered hand-in-hand with a figure’s articulation rating, but Ventress is a unique case.  Please keep in mind that most comments made in these reviews are based solely upon the particular sample used in the evaluation.  This is especially true with the rating and comments in this section.  My views on Ventress’ stability garnered me some intense but short-lived flak over at the Sideshow Freaks forum. 

Hence the preceding disclaimer. 

The core issue with the stability of this sample is that Asajj Ventress was utterly incapable of holding any free-standing pose (i.e. – without using a figure stand) until non-destructive modifications were made.  After consulting with several fellow owners of this figure, it appears my figure suffers from a faulty left ankle that is extremely loose and causes Ventress to collapse under her own weight.  Once masking tape was wrapped around the feet, the stability greatly improved.  The purpose for the tape was two-fold: 1) fill in the space between the foot and boot to create a more solid piece and 2) add enough weight to anchor the feet and counteract the loose ankle. 

Because this is a factory defect, consideration was given to not assigning a rating.  Nevertheless, the fact remains that this sample did not function properly “as-is” and needed either custom modifications or a lengthy exchange process that would take two weeks at the minimum.  Ultimately, this is a quality control issue, and there have been other accounts of loose joints on other figures using Sideshow’s Buck body. 

Bearing all of that in mind, including this category and rating felt like the most responsible thing to do. 

LightsabersExcellent 

A Google and Yahoo! search of comic-based images of Ventress’ lightsabers revealed that there is no consistent design to them.  Obviously, this presents a problem for any company trying to design a facsimile regardless of scale.  What it appears Sideshow’s design team did is maintain the curved shape (the one design constant) and fabricated the rest in their vision.  The grayscale result, excluding the single red button on each hilt, proves to be a sleek device.  When the hilts are joined to create Ventress’ dual blade weapon, it graduates to a serpentine shape, a fitting design for the character’s venomous hatred. 

All aspects of both the unignited and ignited lightsabers are superior in design and execution.  The reflective paints provide a metallic shine that successfully simulates the appearance of a real metal hilt shrunk down to 1/6th scale.  The blades are a translucent deep ruby color, which has generated some controversy within the collecting community because it deviates from the established “frosted” blades used with prior Jedi and Sith figures.  However, the disruption in consistency is minimal, and the glassier material suits a female Dark Side user. 

The only remaining aspect here that needs mentioning is the method used to connect the hilts together.  Taking a cue from the packaging design, Sideshow embedded a small magnet in the base of all four hilts, and they are STRONG!  The connections are stable and secure, and the saber flows together very well when connected.  A cool side effect to the magnetic hilts is that one can sidestep using the clips on the belt and simply dangle them securely from the thin metal rings on Ventress’ belt.  It may not be accurate, but it adds a sense of the Force to the display.

Fun FactorExcellent 

Sample-specific stability issues resolved and put aside, Asajj Ventress is a terrific figure to pose and display.  Having a choice of portraits allows one to have an “angry” Asajj (i.e. – animated portrait) and a more relaxed Asajj (i.e. – exclusive comic book portrait), and the latter is especially useful if one is trying to display the pre-Clone Wars Ventress under the tutelage of Jedi Ky Narec.  Or perhaps one would prefer to do some post-Episode III speculation and pose Asajj renouncing her Sithly ways.  Regardless of the path one chooses, the impressive articulation nevertheless allows for some dynamic and fun poses as previously stated, and, visually, Ventress adds an exotic touch to one’s figure display.

 

 

Overall RatingAbove Average 

As the first villain of the fairer sex in the Star Wars line, Asajj Ventress is a solid addition to a rapidly expanding pantheon of figures.  There are many reasons why Ventress should be spectacular, but there are enough flaws to keep the figure from reaching that tier.  The biggest deficit is the flimsy belt because it is such a disruptive issue—although the overextended sleeves can easily be just as big a nuisance unless trimmed.  And it would have been nice not to get a defective body, but that was a stroke of bad luck and has absolutely no bearing on this overall opinion. 

In spite of these few flaws, Asajj Ventress is a definite must-buy.  The exclusive edition is truly the superior version and better choice, but chances of getting it for retail are slim considering its popularity.  The regular edition, however, is still a solid figure and widely available through various Internet retailers. 

Female characters in the Star Wars Saga—at least main female characters—are few, so it’s a thrill to see two in a row that are of such good quality.  Granted, Ventress isn’t perfect… 

…but then she wouldn’t be a Sith disciple if she was.