Since launching a full-on barrage of Star Wars merchandise on Force Friday, Hasbro's had its hands full. As the first new film-based Star Wars toys and collectibles in a decade, anything with The Force Awakens branding on it has been a hot commodity at retail. It's nearly impossible to find all the figures in stock, and what you do find has been picked clean by eager fans and collectors hoping to be among the first to complete the new collection. Sure, there have been a few pieces that linger (mostly Chewbaccas in any size in my part of the country), but for the most part, if you don't have an inside tip at FedEx or UPS, you're often left scrambling in the hopes of getting anything from the latest shipments.

Fortunately, being a member of the toy collecting press does come with some perks to help take the pressure off. Back when Force Friday kicked off, Hasbro reached out to a number of outlets and asked editors to pick either Light Side or Dark Side. There was little else in the communique to hint at what we might be making this choice for, but it wasn't a very hard decision to make. Though the good guys are the ones you want to root for in the movies, Star Wars' bad guys have always had some really cool designs, and have typically made more interesting toys. I mean really, which would you rather have, an old man in a brown robe or a bad-ass in green armor with a jet pack? Yeah, that's what I thought.

This past week, I received a new box of Dark Side goods from Hasbro chock full of figures from the First Order. While the new 3.75" figures were appreciated, the real star of the show was the Special Forces TIE Fighter vehicle. I'd been reluctant to pick up any of the vehicles for this latest line so far, as it's much easier to find display space for a few figures than it is scaled vehicles. Plus, I'm not really a vehicles guy, and when I do tend to get a mobile transport based on a film or cartoon I enjoy, it's typically of the Lego variety. So it was a nice treat to find one included in this box. Before we get there though, let's go back to those figures.

Including Kylo Ren and a First Order Stormtrooper is pretty much a no-brainer. Those guys are everywhere in the marketing, and as the most recognizable faces of #TeamDarkSide in the promotion of The Force Awakens, it's no wonder Hasbro wanted to get its take on these characters into as many homes as possible. The sculpts are fine on both, though the 6" version of Kylo does fare better in the detail department. The flowing robes captured in hard plastic are okay, but not my favorite as they tend to make him a bit harder to pose and balance. The Stormtrooper is perfectly fine, and the little Centurions-style add-on gives you a different flavor without altering the core concept too much. Plus, if you don't like it, you never have to use it.



The First Order's General Hux isn't quite as up to snuff as the other figures included. The figure came out okay, but since he's a relative unknown and is just a guy in a black trenchcoat, there's not much to be excited about. To me, the best parts of Star Wars are the fantastic designs and aliens, and the human characters don't really do much for me. That's not to say I don't have my fair share of Hans, Leias and Lukes. It's just that tertiary characters like Hux here are about as meaningful to me as the guy sitting next to Admiral Motti while he was getting choked out by Vader on the Death Star (it was Colonel Yularen, but I digress).

Sarco Plank on the the other hand is an interesting little dude. He first made his appearance in the "Journey to the Force Awakens" novella, The Weapon of a Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure, which was one of three books to focus on the original heroes from Star Wars. In the story, Luke leaves the Rebellion for a short time after the Battle of Yavin to visit a fallen Jedi temple he's had dreams about. While venturing to its location, he comes across Sarco Plank, who helps Luke reach the temple, but then attempts a double-cross to get the relics inside. Luke casts him into a deep, dark hole, but somehow, 30 years later, that guy is present again in The Force Awakens.

Plank is the second character from these novellas to get a figure, with Leia's droid PZ-4CO also getting a figure (she's also in the background in some trailer footage). His Force Awakens look is drastically different from the one Phil Noto depicted in the pages of the book, but more importantly, instead of a power staff, Plank apparently relies on a trusty old blaster now. His design, reminiscent of a creepy bug like a locust, immediately makes him stand out, but I'm not sure what the appeal of this character is for people who haven't read the book. Perhaps he too will have a large role in the film, as he currently resides on Jakku which is a major location in the film, but we'll just have to wait and see.



As for the TIE Fighter, there's plenty of history there even if this version happens to be a slightly newer model. We don't really know much about what the Special Forces moniker attributed to the short-range attack vehicle means, but there were some hints in Lost Stars that the Empire was working on stronger TIE Fighters in the post-Battle of Jakku world. This new black and red TIE has been seen in TFA footage pretty much since the beginning, and the only real visual difference between it and the more classic models appears to be the paint job. It's still got the spherical pod smack in the middle of two hexagonal wings. It's still got a very tiny cockpit, and it's still got the same nine-pane windshield.

The detailing on the TIE is something else though, as Hasbro's managed to capture a great amount of that technical design. The wings have some solid texture, and the machined parts running throughout the ship give it a plenty of personality. You get the feeling this thing was actually manufactured by the First Order, and the crispness of all that wiring and metalworking really comes through even though the TIE is primarily one color. As an added bonus, the wings do pop off at the press of a button to make it look like the ship was blown up. There are few things as enjoyable as watching a Star Wars film and seeing a TIE fighter spin wildly out of control into the void of space because an X-Wing clipped it just right. Now you can recreate that action in your very own home.

The TIE Pilot included does fit inside just fine, and there's even space for a second figure if you were so inclined to send to First Order troopers to their deaths. For all the maneuverability these things have, they are literal death traps for the pilots thanks to the lack of proper shielding. Why waste just one capable pilot when you can waste two, I suppose? The Empire lost the first time around for a reason. It would seem the First Order isn't too keen on learning from those mistakes.



All of these figures are available now at retailers of the brick and mortar and online variety. The 3.75" figures will run you ~$10 each, while the TIE Fighter will cost ~$43. These figures were provided by Hasbro for review.


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