A word before we begin -- unfortunately my photo set-up is quite limited at home at the moment, so I had a very difficult time getting any good photos of Vader, due to his heavily black colour scheme. The one above was the only really usable one.
Company: HasbroSeries: Star Wars – The Black Series
Wave: Wave 1Scale: 3.75”
Price: $15.75 – $20.95BACKGROUND
There have been roughly 291371294715390 different Star Wars toy lines since A New Hope first hit cinemas. Some excellent toys have been produced over these years, both for play and for collectors (mid-90s Power of the Force was my own first encounter) but the announcement of a new line must be regarded with a raised eyebrow of scepticism. I get fatigued just looking at the sheer amount of them on the shelves in stores – if you were looking to start collecting now, or were just a kid looking for a toy, where would you even begin? With multiple series running concurrently, it all seems a little daunting.Still, 2013 has brought the release of Star Wars: The Black Series, a line which is being released in both 6” and 3.75” scales. I’ve been checking out a few reviews online, and have seen plenty of positive buzz around the 6” series, but encountered very little information on the 3 ¾” series. So after spotting some in the shops, I decided I’d pick up Darth Vader and see how he stacked up.
PACKAGINGKeeping in tone with the name of the series, the packaging is primarily black, with an orange pattern that kind of looks like it could be from the lights on the lifts in the Emperor’s chambers in Return of the Jedi (I’ve watched Star Wars a lot over the years). It’s very minimalistic, but looks good. My only real thought is that maybe it’s a little too plain – but I am a product of the 80s and 90s, when toy packaging was either exceedingly bright, bordering on garish (e.g. Ninja Turtles, G.I. Joe) or dark and edgy (e.g. Spawn). So adjust your own assessment accordingly.
The copy on the back of the box makes reference to Vader capturing the rebels in Cloud City, which` makes me wonder if we will see future releases of Vader in the Black Series – perhaps one with a removable hand and mask from Return of the Jedi? But if not, it’s no matter – this figure comes with all the accessories I ever remember Vader having in the movies (bar one, which I’ll touch on below), so an additional release would almost be redundant.The figure sits in a clear blister which displays the toy and its accessories quite nicely, so MOC collectors should have no real complaints – though the tape holding down the accessories is a little ugly. The backing card is quite sturdy, but I would suggest examining it for dings before purchase. As with most blister packs, it’s not collector-friendly – open this and the box will be destroyed. Mine has long since gone into the recycling bin.
SCULPT AND ARTICULATIONThere have been a lot of Darth Vader toys over the years, so it takes a lot for one to stand out over another. This one is pretty good, really – there seems to have been a lot of attention paid to all the appropriate little bells and whistles (such as his chestplate) and the texturing on his gloves, boots, pants, etc. Many other figures have gotten away with far less detail and still been pretty good!
The main point of contention will probably be the inclusion of a fabric cape. Fabric on action figures is a pretty mixed bag. Some people don’t like it because it’s easy to damage or deteriorates, others love it because it’s more poseable than a plastic equivalent, and doesn’t typically interfere with the figure’s articulation. I’m a fence sitter, myself. I tend to get annoyed by how “big” the weave seems to be in comparison to the tinyness of the figure, and how easily they pick up dust. With that said, plastic is often unnecessarily restrictive. In this case, I think the fabric was a better option than plastic would have been, but it wasn’t perfect – see more in the “Issues” section.This figure has a pretty good range of articulation, particularly for a figure so small. A cut waist might have been nice, but you probably won’t miss it. The elbows are swivel hinges, and they’re cut at the gloves, so you can get a good range of arm positions. However, in a move that seems somewhat strange, the shoulder itself is only a basic hinge and doesn’t swivel at all. The legs are similar – swivel hinges at the knees and cut ankles (they look hinged, but they don’t seem to work that way). But like the shoulders, the hip joint is just a basic hinge and doesn’t swivel at all.
The legs make sense, as Darth Vader doesn’t really hop, skip, jump or frolic much in the films. However, the lack of swivel on the shoulders does bother me, particularly when they appear to have put a lot of effort into the articulation elsewhere.
As might be expected, there’s very little paint, as the figure is mostly moulded in black. The major paint work is limited to his chest piece and belt – on that basis, no complaints. There’s a tiny bit of “painting outside the lines” but nothing that’s a deal breaker. The other one I saw in the shop had some slop from the silver bits on his mask, so I’d just watch out for that. A few details – like his boots – have also been picked up in what appears to be a glossy black paint, and these all seem fine too.One thing I was happy about was the lack of paint on the eyes. Many Darth Vader figures give him either reddish or metallic-looking eyes. While this may technically be more screen-accurate, it always looks a little weird to me, and I’m glad that they’ve kept this one’s eyes plain black.
Vader comes with three accessories – his extended lightsaber, Han Solo’s blaster and an alternate hand, which is deflecting a blaster bolt. The latter two accessories tie in with a scene from The Empire Strikes Back, which is some of the only screen time Vader and Han Solo actually share in the trilogy.As you can see in the photo, the blaster bolt is a little bent, but the other Vader I saw on the pegs didn’t seem to have this problem. It’s sculpted in soft plastic, so I think it may just be one of those soft plastic issues. I think it’s a little big overall, but I like having the option. The hand plugged into the bolt also detaches from the blast; I wouldn’t describe it as a full-blown alternate hand, but it does mean you can make him look like he’s Force-choking someone.
The blaster is moulded from soft plastic, and doesn’t quite fit into either of Vader’s hands. It’s a little unnecessary, but it’s a nice nod to the scene it appears in.The lightsaber is like most other lightsabers you’ve seen in this scale – moulded in translucent plastic, with the handle detailed in silver and black. It fits in Vader’s left hand nicely and looks good. I suspect it’s a reuse from other Vader figures, but I haven’t collected Star Wars figures since the mid-90s, so I couldn’t give much more detail than that.
The only other accessory (and I feel a bit churlish asking for it) that I would have liked is a switched-off lightsaber hilt. But that could be a choking hazard for kids, I suppose.
ISSUESMy main issue with this figure lies with the fabric. The silver thread which serves as his neck chain chain pokes up at an odd angle – possibly due to being cut a little long – and there is some awkward bunching on the left shoulder. The shoulder is mostly concealed by the cape though, and might have even been fixable if the chestplate wasn’t glued down.
Also, the omission of swivel joints on the shoulders has me puzzled, particularly given the good articulation elsewhere.Still, these issues are pretty minor, and don’t spoil my enjoyment of the figure. Pricing is what concerns me the most, partially because it varies so much. I picked mine up for $15.75, but have seen other retailers selling them for as much as $20.95. I think it’s worth looking for the cheaper options, if you can – I think $20.95 is just too much to pay for a 3.75” figure, unless it was something particularly rare. Personally, I’d prefer if they were around the $12 mark, but maybe I’m just living in the past, price-wise.
OverallI don't really collect 3.75" figures anymore (unless you count TMNT), but I could see myself picking up a couple of other figures from this series, if/when they’re released – Boba Fett, Return of the Jedi Luke and Han Solo, among a couple of others. But this figure mostly just makes me keen for Star Wars: Black Series 6” Darth Vader. It hasn’t been announced as yet, but I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t come sometime in 2014.
Still, this version of Darth Vader is a well-constructed action figure, with a great level of detail for such a small scale. His suitability of as a toy for kids is a little open to question, due to the small size of some of the parts and the pricing – but I think older collectors will find plenty to enjoy here.