The toy-collecting world may have had its fill of Kylo Ren this past winter when the leader of the Knights of Ren and wannabe Sith Lord was one of the few characters you could find in abundance at retail, but the character is still too important a part of the new Star Wars trilogy to completely ignore. That's why this fall, he'll be returning in the latest Star Wars Black Series wave in an unmasked version that shows Ben Solo as he truly is beneath the helm.

Of course, if you happened to be at Star Wars Celebration Europe or San Diego Comic-Con this year, you had an opportunity to get a hold of this new Kylo Ren early in a deluxe package. The new figure was part of Hasbro's cheeky convention exclusive plan to offer two Bens --- one being the original Jedi Knight, Ben Kenobi, and the other Han and Leia's jerkface son, Ben Solo. Though many Black Series collectors and Star Wars fans likely already have a Kylo Ren on their shelves, this one is actually the best of the bunch so far.

At first glance, there doesn't appear to be much different between the stock Kylo Ren body and this slightly different version. However, there are some small differences that make this a more complete figure. If you picked up the original Force Friday release of Kylo Ren, you might recall the hood was tad bit too pointy, the lightsaber hilt was dramatically under-detailed, and the sculpted "fabric" elements lacked much detail. Here, those issues have all been alleviated. The hood is a bit more cooperative, though still a bit awkward if put over the head. The hilt of his signature saber has much more painted detail, and the plasticized elements of his cloak get a major upgrade in texturing.


Star Wars Black Series Kylo Ren SWCE Exclusive


Otherwise, this figure is near identical to the one released nearly one year ago. The articulation and fabric elements all remain the same, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The original figure did have a solid foundation even if it wasn't perfect, and the core elements remaining unchanged from last September isn't something that should dissuade you from the figure. If anything, sticking with what worked and adjusting elements that didn't to be better this time around shows Hasbro is indeed taking feedback and making adjustments as it can.

Granted, the biggest change is the inclusion of the unmasked Adam Driver head. The flowing locks could have been a bit more feathered, but this is about as good a portrait as we've seen from The Force Awakens line of figures. To this point, the only better likeness has been old man Han Solo, and getting a solid Adam Driver does bode well for the future of Force Awakens figures. Then again, the Rogue One Jyn Erso head sculpt was easily the weakest part of the figure, so it looks like we'll still have to keep an eye on these case by case.

You can still opt to put on the Ren helmet, which is also included, but that sort of defeats the purpose of this figure. Sadly he can't wear the best accessory to ever come with a Star Wars figure in the history of Star Wars figures --- the melted Darth Vader helmet. It's never clear how Kylo Ren is able to obtain such an artifact, though the new expanded universe does make it clear that such commodities are in high demand and limited supply. It only makes sense that someone like Ben would go out of his way to make sure one of his grandfather's most coveted collector items would find its way back to the family.


Star Wars Black Series Kylo Ren SWCE Exclusive


The Vader helmet is such a huge part of this package that it gets the entire inside flap of the box to itself. The helmet is in The Force Awakens for about 12 seconds. It's still one of the more memorable moments from the trailers and final release. There was a lot of work done to bridge the gap between the generations of trilogies, but iconic elements like Vader's helmet helped cement the connections. It's recreated terrifically here, with a stellar patina and a sculpt that does make you feel like it might crumble in your hands if you aren't delicate enough. Whether or not there will be more callbacks to Vader in the subsequent films is anyone's guess, but its importance to The Force Awakens remains either way.

Kylo Ren getting a second version of his figure before most people have still had a chance to get a hold of the first Rey might irk some fans, but as an exclusive it's not a bad way to go. Plus, given Hasbro's line-up plans for the next few waves, it's clear that there is going to be a focus on providing more female characters to hold us over until a proper Jedi-in-training Rey finds its way to retail.

The overall figure is much better than the one originally released ahead of Force Awakens' debut, but it was the unmasked head and the Vader helmet that really sold me on this iteration. I can't say for certain his being unmasked will make enough of a difference this fall when he hits worldwide to pick him up a second (or third if you got the Starkiller Base version) time, as he won't include any of the special goods. The head sculpt and the accessories are really what made this Kylo Ren worth tracking down, and without all of them, you might find the retail release worth passing up. If you're able to get a hold of this edition for a reasonable price however, by all means, join the Dark Side.



The Star Wars Black Series Kylo Ren (Unmasked) will be available worldwide this fall. This SWCE exclusive edition was purchased for review.


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