Star Wars Action Figures

Yodasnews Review:  Leia Organa (Jedi Knight) and Darth Vader (Phantasm)

Star Wars Infinities: The Empire Strikes Back Issue #4 

Review and Photography by Jeffrey A. Gouse (SithLord0498) 

Review Date: October 15, 2007

 

 

FIGURE SPECIFICATIONS 

Utilizing a concept that harkens back many years to Marvel Comics’ “What If?” titles, Dark Horse released Star Wars: Infinities, multi-issue story arcs that posits the question “what if?” in each film of the Original Trilogy.  This particular comic pack is based upon the final issue of the Infinities series for The Empire Strikes Back where the question responsible for the plot’s bizarre tangent was “What if Han Solo couldn’t rescue Luke Skywalker in time?”  In this alternate universe, Luke’s dying words ultimately sent Leia on a quest to Dagobah where she trained as a Jedi under Master Yoda’s guidance. 

Of course, only the final issue is included in this pack, and it shows the climax where Yoda engages in a phantasmagoric and fatal duel with Darth Vader in which several specters from the Prequels make cameos (this series was published after Episode II was released).  The story is solid save for a very illogical and abrupt bridge to the ending of Return of the Jedi—this time set on Dagobah. 

For this comic pack, Hasbro has included Leia Organa (Jedi Knight) and a McQuarrie-ish rendition of Darth Vader as depicted during his spectral and psychological duel. 

HELMET DESIGN (Darth Vader - Phantasm) – Average 

As mentioned above, this tale’s climax has Darth Vader’s confrontation with Yoda taking a bizarre turn when the diminutive Jedi creates a hallucinatory world that projects Vader’s inner mind.  In this living illusion, the Sith Lord’s armor takes on a more primitive design that reflects the darkness of this fallen Jedi.

The design of the helmet is based upon the exaggeration of key features found in the regular version.  By elongating the grille into a Gothic-style arch and stretching the locking helmet along the X/Y axes results in a distorted visage and also serves to shrink the eyes to the point of appearing lost in the mask.  Perhaps this could be symbolic of Anakin’s lost soul? 

Unfortunately, Hasbro failed to translate the distortions properly with the primary error being failing to compress and widen the size of Vader’s head.  In the comic, the primitive quality is achieved by illustrating a less evolved, Neanderthal-like look to the proportions.  Instead, the helmet’s overall proportions remain too true to the cinematic Vader.  Another element that remains virtually identical to the film version is the elevation at which the locking helmet abruptly transitions from rounded to an outward flare.  The phantasmic version should flare out lower and with a curved boundary as opposed to a straight line.  As for the grille, the concept translated better into the plastic medium than the locking helmet, but the dimensions are erroneous.  The shape is too curvy on the sides, and it fails to protrude far enough outward from the face mask. 

Yes, this all may seem nitpicky, but these oversights as well as others in the remaining armor (more on that soon) and the general lack of quality with Leia signals an overall laziness on Hasbro’s part with this comic pack.  A quick in-package examination of the other two Wave 3 sets (Pilot Luke/Mara Jade and Dark Woman/A’Sharad Hett) shows a similar lack of quality and effort across the board. 

This is a great disappointment given how well ARC Trooper “Alpha” turned out in Wave 2, but even some entries from the first two waves were somewhat lacking as well.

  

 

PORTRAIT – ANAKIN SKYWALKER (Darth Vader - Phantasm) – Poor 

Removing the just-average helmet reveals the weakest aspect of this figure—the Anakin Skywalker portrait circa Attack of the Clones.  Aside from the fact that Anakin’s face is revealed via a smashed helmet, this portrait has absolutely no connection to the comic book at all.  The greatest failing is that the face looks nothing like Hayden Christensen. 

Not even close. 

OK…so the figure is a Caucasian male with light brown hair.  Guess that means we should overlook the fact that this is the face of a man in his late 30s or early 40s.  Sure…that’s close enough. 

Another detriment is a sloppy and plain paint application.  The flesh tones are splotchy and pasty, and the eyes are poorly defined.  Worst of all, the hair line suffers from extremely heavy paint runs with a good portion of the forehead painted brown. 

Overall, it would have been less embarrassing for Hasbro if they just omitted the hidden portrait feature.

 

PORTRAIT (Leia Organa – Jedi Knight) – Below Average (Bordering on “Poor”) 

For reasons that still remain elusive and inexplicable, Hasbro has the most difficult time producing even a passable portrait of Leia Organa.  This deficiency is even harder to fathom in an era where they are regularly producing solid portraits in the 3.75 scale line.  In this case, the only aspect that kept this portrait from bottom-dwelling is that the flowing hair sculpt that runs down Leia’s back has a high degree of texture and three-dimensionality. 

The rest can be summed up by saying this portrait resembles a plastic surgery gone very, very wrong.  Facial features are uneven and lacking symmetry in spots.  Viewing the portrait in profile shows a sharp angular shape that creates poorly sculpted ears and a square jaw that could put a Dick Tracy character to shame.  The poor paint applications give the face a very unfeminine and splotchy look.  The eyes and eyebrows are uneven, and half of the hair line has a strip of gray separating the dark brown hair and skin tone. 

Lastly, a note on the hands is in order despite not being part of the portrait category per say.  They are simply far too large and manly for Leia.  In fact, seeing these gigantic claws brings to mind the “Man-Hands” episode of Seinfeld.

 ARMOR (Darth Vader- Phantasm) – Above Average 

The overall translation of Vader’s armor (neck down that is) is the best element of this figure with a plethora of small details and relatively few flaws.  Since this is the one area where Hasbro succeeded most, let’s jump right in. 

In this distorted and decidedly darker design, Darth Vader’s armor is extremely angular with many zigzagging plates and additional panels placed over the bodysuit.  The zigzags, in terms of shape and arrangement, are very accurate.  The only area for improvement would be to have them raised and layered on the chest.  As it stands, the pattern is merely etched into a smooth and level surface.  Conversely, the gauntlets match the drawings in both pattern and dimensionality.  The leg panels are also true to the comic book, and the shin guards succeed very well in concealing the ankle joints.

The distorted “bat-like” cape stands out as the most impressive element of this figure’s attire because of its highly dramatic and dynamic sculpting.  Aside from the naturalistic folds, the most fascinating elements in this soft plastic cape are as follows: 1) the pointy edges randomly flare out and tuck inward with varying angles and thickness in the plastic and 2) the space between the head and shoulders is wide enough to allow easy shifting of the cape to the side, allowing an unconventional way to position the piece. 

Moving beyond the armor design, the battle damage details have also enjoyed quality execution—even if the biggest part of it is needless.  That “needless” feature is the removable upper chest panel, which reveals an intricately detailed and layered glimpse of the suit’s circuitry.  While this is impressive in appearance, it never appeared in the comic book.  It is an unnecessary feature and a waste of resources, resources that would have been better used to improve articulation (consider that a sneak preview of what’s coming) and correcting inaccurate details. 

The flaws here are thankfully small.  First is the quality of the minimal paint applications.  The armor’s color is 98% derived from the black molded plastic with the remaining 2% being small silver and red buttons and the mechanics of the exposed shoulder damage.  The chest circuits are being omitted here because they are covered.  The silver buttons are spot-on applied, but the red is sloppy.  The second flaw is that Hasbro sculpted a completely different layout for the upper portion of Vader’s chest-mounted life support panel.  It looks good.  It’s just inaccurate.

 

JEDI KNIGHT OUTFIT (Leia Organa – Jedi Knight) – Average (Bordering on Below Average) 

Leia’s Jedi Knight clothing fares only a little better than her portrait.  The saving grace here (if you can call it that) are the sculpted details in the vest and on the boots, the latter looking reminiscent of those on Bespin Luke.  Of course, that subtle connection makes sense considering the content of this Infinities tale.  The vest in the comic has a randomized scaly pattern, and this has been intricately sculpted in the figure’s vest.  For the boots, the standout features are the realistic compression and bunching effects of the three straps “wrapped” tightly around the boots. 

Like the portrait, highly sloppy paint applications cause the most damage to the aesthetic quality of the outfit.  The low cut neckline of Leia’s tunic suffers from a high concentration of paint smears.  Not only is that same gray strip here as well but there are also several specks of skin tone paint on the dingy off-white tunic.  These same “skin specks” are also found on Leia’s back when the hair piece is moved aside.  Further evidence of poor quality control is that the paint on the vest underneath the arms is thinner and actually missing in spots.  Finally, the highly rigid plastic of the lower tunic and vest virtually restricts all articulation at the swivel joints on the hips.  Using a more pliant plastic or soft goods could have eliminated this needless flaw.  Even adding slits in the existing plastic would have worked to some degree.

 

 

ARTICULATION (Darth Vader - Phantasm) – Average 

The rating here could have easily been elevated one entire level if Hasbro chose to add more joints.  As the figure exists though, there are too many swivel joints (the shoulders could have easily been ball-jointed) and not enough joints on the legs (absolutely nothing for knee articulation).  These shortcomings, you can imagine, place many limitations on the achievable poses with this Vader, and it is always a shame when it involves a lightsaber-wielding character.  Without ball-jointed shoulders to complement the ball-jointed elbows, many dynamic saber stances and swipes are not possible.  Knee articulation would have further enhanced the palette because it would have allowed the option of lunging. 

All of this, however, is lost because of insufficient articulation, and what is left is a figure that can really only stand with a stiff posture and minimal options for the extremities.

 

 

ARTICULATION (Leia Organa – Jedi Knight) – Average 

It has already been established that deep leg stances aren’t possible due to the rigidity of the tunic and vest, so we can move right on to the rest of the articulation.  With only one exception, the remaining joints work very well, but that one exception combines with the useless legs to limit one’s posing options.  This problematic articulation is the use of swivel cut elbows as opposed to more functional and natural ball joints.  Unless posed in straight lines or near right angles, the arms look awkward—plain and simple.

 

LIGHTSABER (Darth Vader - Phantasm) – Average 

Between “reality” and the psychological phantom world, the design of Vader’s lightsaber changed very little, and Hasbro provided a recycled Original Trilogy lightsaber as a result.  This is great for hilt accuracy but terrible for this version of Darth Vader.  The reason for that is the lightsaber blade in Vader’s hallucination is an orange, red, and yellow stream of fire rather than the typically refined saber blade.  That fiery concept gels with this vision of the Dark Lord while the normal lightsaber included here does not.  It’s as simple as that. 

LIGHTSABER (Leia Organa – Jedi Knight) – Above Average (Bordering on Average) 

Unlike the uninspired rehash with which Vader was packaged, Leia’s lightsaber has a very accurate sculpt when compared to the drawings in the comic book.  The shapes and placements of the machined parts are near matches to the illustrations, and the blade is removable, allowing one to pose Leia with only the hilt if so desired.  While the comic version is a dark gray whereas Hasbro incorrectly painted their version a silvery light gray, the actual reason for withholding a higher rating is that the hilt’s plastic is very weak and bends too easily. 

 “FUN FACTOR” (Darth Vader - Phantasm) – Average 

When this area scores below “Excellent”, the typical culprit is usually a deficiency in the amount and quality of articulation, and that holds true here.  Ironically, this is Hasbro’s fault because they have consistently released so many impressive figures since 2004 that the bar has been permanently set high.  Unfortunately, it’s higher than this figure achieved. 

With two packs, most of the fun is in replicating scenes between the figures, and Vader just can’t match a great deal of his dueling scenes with Jedi Leia.  In the end, it is only good as a companion to either Jedi Leia, a regular Vader, or the close-in-appearance McQuarrie Concept Darth Vader. 

Just make sure it’s not displayed with that horrid “Anakin” portrait showing. 

“FUN FACTOR” (Leia Organa – Jedi Knight) – Below Average 

Considering the character and the context of the story, this is a figure that one would really want to be as fun as possible.  Sadly, this is not the case.  Aesthetically, the figure can be an eyesore if posed amongst more superior and higher-quality figures from the Anniversary Collection simply due to the sloppy paint applications.  Functionally, too much of the potential poseability has either been stymied or made awkward in appearance.  The only real uses for this figure, in the end, are in story-specific dioramas with Phantasm Darth Vader (options there are limited) or as fodder for customization. 

Harsh, I know, but Hasbro fumbled what could have been an easy touchdown with this figure. 

OVERALL RATING: (Darth Vader - Phantasm) – Average;  (Leia Organa – Jedi Knight) – Below Average 

For a product line that they claim is proving popular with consumers, Hasbro is being quite lazy with the quality of these comic packs.  I also find their claim to be hard to believe considering the pegs are easily clogged with the first two waves in my area (Northeastern Pennsylvania).  But since sales numbers are unlikely to be revealed, that claim’s validity will remain speculation.

What is much more concrete and observable is that the best of this particular pack is the comic book itself.  While the figures may be avoiding the bottom of the barrel on their own (Leia just barely), the set as a whole is poor and not worth the money.  A better use for that cash is to buy the full Star Wars Infinities: The Empire Strikes Back story in trade paperback format.  Amazon currently has it for sale at a comparable price of $10.36.  Pick up the other two Infinities TPBs for the same price, and your order will be over $25 and therefore eligible for free “Super Saver” shipping. 

Unless there is a huge improvement in quality or the characters are important to me, this will most likely be the last comic pack that I review.  There is just too much of a sour taste left from this one.