Star Wars Black Series’ Latest Wave Provides a New Hope for the Rebels [Review]
Hasbro's Star Wars Black Series figures are among the most coveted collectibles on shelves. You've got to time your toy hunts perfectly if you hope to find the latest additions to the continually expanding line. Stores just can't keep these characters on shelves... well except for Kylo Ren. Everyone else though? Good luck. It's been a struggle for many to keep their collections current, though the recent Blu-ray release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens saw a number of figures replenished across the country. Many figures were finally widely available for the first time just a few weeks ago.
Even with all that replenishment, the most recent wave, featuring the very first Star Wars Rebels 6" figures, a revamped New Hope Luke, and a mass re-release of the Snowtrooper, has been hard to get. Fortunately, we were able to secure a set of 2016's second wave (thanks to Hasbro). Are these newcomers worth the time and effort it will take to track them down? Let's take a look.
I like Luke Skywalker a lot. I might be biased for reasons the world might never understand, but he's a good Jedi dude. I've always been partial to his Empire Strikes Back Bespin style, but X-Wing Luke and Jedi Knight Luke (from Return of the Jedi) are good looks too. Tatooine Luke is not my favorite. It has nothing to do with how he looks, it's just that back on that outer rim sandball of a planet, he's such a whiny brat that I can't stand him. It's not until he gets to the Death Star and ditches the farmboy clothes that he starts be become interesting.
It's been a while since we've gotten a moisture farmer version of Luke Skywalker, and this time Hasbro's added in a cloth tunic to help this one stand out from the past versions. Hasbro's been working with mixed media on a few figures since the first Force Awakens wave hit, and for the most part, it's been a success. The baggy top works well with this figure, and doesn't limit Luke's articulation at all. The bunching in his elbows can't really be avoided, and he does look a little too puffy when posed like that as a result.
Strangely, the head sculpt and body are quite different from any of the previously released Luke figures. Each of the other Lukes having different head sculpts makes sense, given how different Mark Hamill looked in every film (even if these figures don't have true likenesses), but New Hope Luke is cast in plastic that makes it hard to discern his facial features. Additionally, this Luke actually stands taller than almost all the other Black Series Lukes, but in particular the X-Wing Luke that was part of the earliest waves. Him being out of scale with his other versions will likely drive collectors mad, but you can't truly tell unless you have all of them lined up next to each other.
Kanan Jarrus, one of those rare Jedi to avoid being swept up under Order 66, is the dashing rogue you may know from Star Wars Rebels. While Rebels has had its own action figures for some time now, this is the first time one of the characters from the animated show is being rendered in the realistic style of the Star Wars Black series. He's joined in this wave by Ahsoka Tano, and will welcome Sabine Wren later this year. Everyone is keeping their fingers crossed for Hera to come eventually... and I guess Ezra and Zeb, too. Anyway, the previous releases have stayed true to the animated series designs, but now that he's being brought into the Black Series, he's much less stylized.
Hasbro's sculptors kept the spirit of animated design in tact, with the only noticeable change in his head sculpt. Kanan's body is much more detailed and textured than his other smaller toys, which goes a long way to selling the idea that Kanan could indeed stand side by side with Han Solo or Rey. What's more, Kanan's lightsaber can break apart into two pieces (three if you count the blade itself) so he can hide it in plain sight from the Imperial forces. It's something fairly trivial in action figure form, but goes a long way in showing how dedicated Hasbro is in getting the small things right.
I never really tried to picture Kanan as an actual person before, but I believe Hasbro's sculpt captures him quite well. The cartoon version has a bit of a longer face and a more pronounced nose, but not every element needed to be translated 100% to "real life" for this version. His nose is still a central defining feature, besides his pony tail. Though his head is a bit more compact than I would have liked, Kanan is still devilishly handsome. The toy isn't based on any actor, but if they found an actor that looked like this toy, you could see him passing for Kanan in live action form.
Ahsoka Tano is a gem. The character has grown leaps and bounds since debuting on the Clone Wars animated series many twin moons ago, and has rightfully become a fan-favorite hero. Getting a figure befitting someone with such a spectacular lineage in the Star Wars universe seemed like a dream when the Black Series launched, but her return to the spotlight on Rebels made her a prime candidate for a 6" figure. Like Kanan, Ahsoka is no stranger to the figure realm, but her collectibles to this point have been of the 3.75" variety and based on the shows' styles.
There's a lot to like about the Black Series Ahsoka. There's always a worry with characters that have intricate paint apps that something will go terribly wrong. That's not a knock on Hasbro, it's just a fact of life for any mass market figure. There are going to be those that have mistakes. For the most part, this Ahsoka is fairly on point with her Togruta heritage. The white on her face is a little faded in parts, but I'd rather have slightly under-applied paint than a bit white smear across her face. The head sculpt also captures her demeanor quite well, though I will continue to advocate for figures to get expressive faces. Every toy in this line is so stoic, you wonder if every character is sad about their lots in life.
The only real downside to the Ahsoka figure is how her body build makes it a challenge to keep her upright. That's been an issue for all the female figures in the Black Series, few as they have been. It's damn hard to pose them in any way that doesn't require a peg stand or some support behind them. Ahosoka's skirt doesn't help things much, as it limits her hip movements. She's also lacking in thigh articulation, which almost every other figure has gotten. There's almost no reason to include it, and it would have greatly improved her odds of being able to balance on her own two feet.
The Snowtrooper has been seen before in two forms in the "Red" Star Wars Black collection. First, he arrived as a Toys 'R Us exclusive with an orange officer's pauldron, and then earlier this year as a part of the first wave of 2016 releases. He's been included as a repack in this wave, but this is the first time we've seen the basic Snowtrooper on shelves. The Snowtroopers barely had anything to do with the The Force Awakens, despite getting a big push on the toy side of things. Their biggest scene was cut from the film itself, though it did make a showing on the bonus features of the Blu-ray release. For army builders, this figure is a no-brainer addition. For everyone else, it's not that special.
Unlike regular Stormtroopers in the First Order, the Snowtroopers have limited use and limited appeal. While the design of the cold-weather soldiers is fantastic, they don't have the same sentimental appeal of the original trilogy's Snowtroopers. At least those guys played a part in a major sequence. That said, Hasbro does a nice job realizing the Snowtrooper in figure form. The armor and the helmet look great, and there's lots of detail in the suit itself indicating its specific to less temperate climates.
These are the kinds of characters that are perfect for mass production, which makes sense given that the soldiers themselves are practically mass produced. There's a uniformity that makes them appealing, and lining the Snowtrooper up with the Stormtrooper and the Flametrooper shows how each comes from the same point, but evolved to better suit its individual purpose.
The new figures in this wave more than make up for any perceived shortcomings the Snowtrooper might have based on his lack of cinematic star power. Kanan and Ahsoka are the true standouts, though there are sure to be fans of the New Hope Luke as well. I still prefer the earlier releases of Luke to this one, but if this kind of design is going to be used to reinvigorate classic characters moving forward, I'm all for it. There's no doubt each of these figures is going to be tough to track down, but Kanan and Ahsoka specifically will draw loads of attention since its the first time they're being offered in this form. If you see them, don't hesitate. You might not get another chance for a few months.
The Star Wars Black Series figures are currently available for ~$20 each. These figures were provided by Hasbro for review.