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REVIEW: STAR WARS EVOLUTIONS CLONE COMMANDOS SET
By Thomas Wheeler

Although most of the Clone Trooper type figures in the Star Wars collection these days tend to be part of the Clone Wars collection, every so often, something new does turn up in the movie-based Legacy Collection. Such was the case with a recent EVOLUTIONS three-pack of figures, exclusive to Walmart, called CLONE COMMANDOS.

The Evolutions sets tend to take a given character, trooper, or theme, and work it from its origins, generally in the prequels, through a mid range, which more often than not comes from some "Expanded Universe" concept, and into its final stage, which generally emanates from the Classic Trilogy, Episodes 4-6.

This is pretty much the case with the Clone Commandos set, although the third figure in the series is likely to be of considerable interest to Star Wars fans, even if the other two aren't (although there's no reason they shouldn't be), because it represents a new figure from a division based upon a particularly popular Imperial Trooper division.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. We should really start with the initial figure in the collection, which has his origins just beyond Episode II, during the time of the Clone Wars. He is an ARC TROOPER, with the name of "ALPHA".

Let's see what the informational Web Site "Wookieepedia" has to say about ARC Troopers in general, and Alpha in particular.

Advanced Recon Commandos, also known as Advanced Recon Clone troopers or simply ARC troopers, were elite variants of clone troopers in the Grand Army of the Republic during the Clone Wars. They were among the most skilled soldiers in the galaxy ; however, they were less numerous than other clones .

During the early stages of the clone army's development, Jango Fett and his Mandalorian military advisors advocated the creation of clones capable of handling covert missions too delicate for the standard units. To achieve the desired results, the Kaminoans did not apply the standard behavior correction and enhanced the prime clone's genetic sample to increase physical prowess.

After completing standard flash training and accelerated growth, these clones were placed under the direct tutelage of Jango Fett . Under Fett's strict discipline they learned to use their fierce independence, innate creativity, and physical superiority in combination with their training in advanced weapons and vehicles to become virtual one-man armies. After completing their training, the ARC troopers were locked in stasis on Kamino until they were required.

Two months after the Battle of Geonosis , a Confederacy assault on Kamino prompted their early activation. As droid detachments closed in on Tipoca City, Prime Minister Lama Su activated the Advanced Recon Commandos and authorized their deployment to hot-spots across Kamino in a last-ditch effort to save the planet's precious cloning facilities. The ARCs worked with a force of Jedi to repel the droid forces.

Following the First Battle of Kamino, the ARCs were integrated into the Grand Army of the Republic. As the ARCs took their place in the larger world, they developed distinct personalities due to their unaltered nature; some gave themselves names, others formed relationships outside the GAR. Once integrated, Advanced Recon Commandos worked as solo operatives or in small squads led by ARC captains, either performing self-contained missions or supplementing larger Grand Army of the Republic operations.

When the Naboo lost contact with the Gungan colony moon of Ohma-D'un , a Separatist attack was suspected, and General Kenobi and Skywalker were sent to investigate. Kenobi, having witnessed his lethal effectiveness on Kamino, took Alpha along for the ride. When the trio arrived on the surface, they found the Gungan colony in ruins and bodies for as far as the eye could see. Before they could complete their investigation into the cause of the genocidal slaughter, however, they fell under attack from the bounty hunter Durge and the Dark Jedi Asajj Ventress. Alpha, in the confusion of the ensuing battle, went with Anakin to find and destroy the bio-weapon responsible for Ohma-D'un's destruction before it could be let loose in Theed. It was then that Anakin, uncomfortable with calling him simply "clone," named the ARC trooper "Alpha".

Later, Alpha was transferred out of General Kenobi's Third Systems Army and was sent back to Kamino, where he was to train current and future generations of clone commanders. He followed Anakin's previous suggestion that he give them names, and was promoted to the rank of captain. he then became lead instructor of the Tipoca City training facility. Commanders Cody, Neyo, Bacara , Gree, Appo, Bly, Salvo, Faie, and Keller were among the first hundred to be enrolled in and graduate from his experimental training regimen.

The figure reflects Alpha's promotion to Captain. As was the custom early on among the Clone Troopers, certain bands of color on their uniforms were used to designate rank. Alpha's early appearances gave him blue trim, marking him as a Lieutenant, and there has been an Alpha figure with blue trim. This figure has red trim, marking him as a Captain.

The armor, in basic form, is identical to the armor worn by Clone Troopers in Episode II. However, the ARC Troopers had a fair amount of enhancement. Along with the distinctive shoulder padding, known in the Star Wars universe as a pauldron, they also wore a sort of half-tunic, which hung from the belt. This was called a kama. There's also a periscope and rangefinder attachment on the helmet, and a little device of some sort on the wrist which attaches to the back of the pauldron. Some additional trim includes a series of three bands on each boot, Given Alpha's rank as Captain for this set, all of the assorted trim – on the pauldron, helmet, kama, and boots – is dark red.

The helmet is removable, revealing the expected Jango/Clone type head, although I have noticed a number of different sculpts based on this head turning up here and there. Another Evolutions set, based on Imperial Pilots, had several different headsculpts. This one for Alpha has yet another, and it features a face with some distinct scarring. Alpha had certainly been through his share of battles by the time he made the rank of Captain.

The figure is very well articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows (including swivel), wrists, waist, legs, knees (including swivel), and ankles.

Accesorywise, Alpha comes with a BIG blaster rifle. Fairly impressive piece of hardware, actually. Something a little different from the usual blaster pistols. The Wookieepedia entry on ARC Troopers' weaponry reads: "While each mission profile required a different loadout, ARC troopers were commonly armed with the WESTAR-M5 blaster rifle, DC-15 blaster rifles, and DC-17 hand blasters.

Most of the paint trim is neatly done, but it could be better on the belts and equipment attached to the kama. It's fairly obviously painted by hand. I've seen worse, and actually, this isn't too bad at all. It's just a practice that I don't approve of in the first place.

On the whole, though, ARC Trooper Alpha is an excellent figure. Now, let's move along to the next figure in the line, an actual CLONE COMMANDO with the name of FI SKIRATA, from OMEGA SQUAD.

Omega Squad was an elite clone commando unit, and was part of the Grand Army of the Republic during the Clone Wars .

A clone commando, or Republic commando, was an elite soldier of the Grand Army of the Republic . Often working in groups of four , clone commandos were assigned to carry out covert operations too delicate for regular clone troopers. Covert infiltration, sabotage, foreign unit training, and assassination were standard tasks for the clone commandos.

Soon after the cloners of Kamino began their clone trooper project, Jango Fett, although he believed his clones would be the best soldiers in the galaxy, realized that situations would arise that regular infantry clones could not handle. He persuaded the Kaminoans to create a new class of Advanced Recon Commando, which he would personally train. The result was the Alpha-class Advanced Recon Commandos.

The Kaminoans believed the Alpha ARCs would be just as rogue as the "failed" Null-class ARC troopers, so they proposed another idea. They requested a battalion of elite commandos be created from the regular clone trooper genome template. These clones would be just as loyal and obedient as their more common brethren; the only differences between the two would be their superior weapons, armor, gear, teamwork and training. The commandos would be placed into squads (nicknamed "pods") of four commandos each.

Fett agreed to this proposal and requested that the commandos be trained by professional mercenaries in addition to computerized "flash" training. The cloners agreed with Fett, and soon Jango had gathered 75 Mandalorian soldiers and another 25 elite mercenaries from around the galaxy to form the Cuy'val Dar , or "those who no longer exist.". Under the direction of Fett, the training sergeants gave the commandos the most elite training available.

The Kaminoans soon found they had a number of small, operational squads, each capable of carrying out self-contained or campaign-augmenting missions, as well as being highly trained and fiercely cohesive, yet capable of carrying out a variety of mission profiles.

Throughout the Clone Wars, there were many different opinions regarding the commandos. Some clones tended to respect the commandos for their superb training and combat skills while other clones, especially the infantry-based units that fought in the larger battles of the war, believed that the commandos' reputation was grossly exaggerated.

The Clone Commandos first turned up in a video game called "Republic Commando". As for this particular one, named Fi Skirata, Wookieepedia says this: Fi Skirata, formerly known as RC-8015, was a clone commando member of the Galactic Republic 's Teroch Squad, and later Omega Squad, serving as the team medic in both.

Fi was noted as unusual for a clone due to his flippancy and sense of humor. He also longed for what he called a normal life, especially after seeing civilians on Coruscant. Like any other clone commando, he loved exotic weaponry such as Verpine rifles, and enjoyed performing Mandalorian chants. Furthermore, Fi enjoyed collecting souvenirs of his deployments, examples being a Geonosian force pike and Ghez Hokan's armor. He also appeared to particularly enjoy glimmik music, which he would sometimes listen to before or after a mission.

Honestly, I expected to be disappointed with this figure. There have been Clone Commandos before. The first Clone Commando figure was released around the time of the video game in which they first appeared. There was also an EntertainmentEarth exclusive set of Clone Commandos, comprising most of Omega Squad.

Now, the design of the Clone Commandos is very distinctive, especially relative to other Clone Troopers. However, the initial figure of the Clone Commando – wasn't well articulated, especially in the legs, where the figure not only didn't have articulated knees, but was preposed and barely able to stand up on his own.

So imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered that somewhere along the way (and I wonder now if I should've turned up my nose at the Omega Squad set), the Clone Commando figure was overhauled, and is MASSIVELY better articulated than before!

Clone Commando armor, especially given the time period within the Clone Wars when the Commandos first turned up, is very unusual, and th is is of course reflected on the figure. The helmet looks a lot like the Episode II Clone Trooper, but it lacks the ridge on the top, and for Fi here, the visor is bright blue. The torso armor is more ridged around the lower torso, and has an extra ridge of center plating on the front. The arms are significantly different, with much more pronounced shoulder armor, bicep armor, and elbow protrusions.

The legs seem to be about the same as most Clone Troopers, or at least are not dramatically different.

Clone Commandos tended to be a lot more decorative with their armor, especially in the early days, than Clone Troopers initially were. Although Fi Skirata's armor clearly has a base color of white, there is a very dark blue wide stripe running vertically down the center of the helmet. Additionally, one side of his chestplate is the same dark blue, as is one entire shoulder pad. Large portions of his gauntlets, legs, and boots, are also dark blue.

Paintwork is neat for the most part, although one can tell it's hand painted in a few places, especially around the black "undersuit" areas. It's done neatly enough, but like I said on Alpha, it's just not a practice of which I approve.

Articulation, given what I expected, is fantastic. Fi Skirata is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, legs, knees, and ankles. The worst thing I can say is that the arms move back and forth, but not outwards. Still, that would've been tricky given the larger shoulder armor. Honestly, he's a superbly-articulated Star Wars figure even if one WASN'T expecting something pre-posed and prone to tipping over. It's probably worth noting that the copyright date on the bottom of his foot reads 2008.

Accessory-wise, it appears that Fi is a little better equipped than most, but that's somewhat in keeping with the Clone Commandos, who apparently liked to have as many weapons available as possible. Along with a couple of different blasters, there's also a backpack in a side area in the package, and a couple of other devices. Some of this stuff is pretty small.

Now, let's consider the final figure in this assortment, designated STORM COMMANDO, and clearly intended to be from the time of the Classic Trilogy.

You know, I honestly didn't expect to find anything on Wookieepedia about these guys. The figures had the look of something that Hasbro might've made up, recognizing the popularity of certain elements within Stormtrooper figures. I should've known better. Nobody makes anything up for Star Wars, at least not for Star Wars retail products of any sort, that doesn't get LucasFilm's approval. Here's what Wookieepedia has to say about Storm Commandos:

The storm commandos, also known as Imperial commandos or shadow scouts, were elite members of a branch of the Imperial Stormtrooper Corps.

Storm commandos were trained especially for counter-insurgency missions (prioritizing the Rebels), siege breaking, and sabotage. A unit co uld range from 4 to 40 commandos in strength.

Their signature black armor was based on the scout trooper's light armor, hence the nickname "shadow scout"; it was enhanced with a coating of an advanced polymer called reflec, which deflected light and sensor energy. The armor was designed by Dr. Nashiak Llalik. To support their mission profile, storm commando armor included a smal l generator that created a sound-dampening field, numerous concealed weapons, and a thermal detonator that a commando could detonate if faced with capture. They were sometimes known to make use of Evasive-226-R field disruptors.

Storm commandos used modified 74-Z speeder bikes to aid them in missions of deep infiltration where they uncovered plots and dug up deadly secrets that could be used to force enemies to cooperate. Their speeder bikes were designed for silence and speed, with a trideflective energy shield that prevented detection.

Storm commandos were also trained to fly commando-exclusive TIE Hunters, generally operating from Imperial escort carriers. These carriers would be under their direct command and control.

Okay, I'm going to be honest – I consider myself a reasonable fan of Star Wars, but there's just so much material out there these days – the movies, the novels, the comic books, the games, you name it – that unless you're one of that population of seriously die-hard Star Wars fanatics, it's pretty much impossible to keep track of all of it, and you're going to miss something. And I missed this. I'd never heard of Storm Commandos, Shadow Scouts, or for that matter, TIE Hunters.

But I certainly knew a cool figure when I saw one, and this is certainly one. Two of the most popular Stormtrooper variants in the entire Star Wars universe, among many fans, are Biker Scouts, first seen in the Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi, and the Shadow Stormtroopers, which took the popular Stormtrooper design and made them as menacing a black as Darth Vader ever was.

So what you have here is a Biker Scout in dark armor. How is that NOT going to be a hit!?

As one would expect, Hasbro used their excellent Super-Articulated Biker Scout molds for this figure, which have seen several uses as well for the Elite Clones of the type seen in Star Wars Episode III in the Battle of Kashyyyk. It's a great design, and it certainly works in every instance, including here.

The armor is a very dark grey, with a slight metallic sheen. It appears to have been molded in this color, rather than painted. The undersuit has been done in black. A couple of straps on the legs and arms have been painted in a dark greyish brown. There's a bit of silver trim on the helmet, and on the belt buckle. While perhaps not the most covert thing to do, it does give the figure just a little more highlight.

But overall, this is an immensely cool looking figure, and actually, I'm pleased to know he does have some history within the Star Wars universe beyond just this figure. Honestly, if Hasbro ever decided to release this Storm Commando on an individual card, I wouldn't object to army-building him a little bit. Unlike the other two figures in this set, ARC Trooper Alpha and Clone Commando Fi Skirata, the Storm Commando is NOT specifically designated as an individual.

Articulation is excellent. Although the molds used are obviously not the same ones for most Stormtrooper or Clone Troopers, they have the same considerable range of motion. The Storm Commando is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows (including swivel), wrists, mid-torso, legs, knees (including swivel) and ankles.

Accessorywise, he comes with a couple of rather small pistols. This is in keeping with the Biker Scout aspect of the design. These are great little accessories, well made and, when necessary, well-painted. But there's also a certain emphasis on the word "little", and you don't want to lose them.

It really is an absolutely amazing figure of a very distinctive Imperial trooper that has not previously been made as a figure.

Let me say one thing about all three – they're all the proper height, too. For a time, Hasbro reduced the size of some of their "human" figures for some peculiar reason, and every so often, molds from those figures will still turn up. One such unfortunately plagued the aforementioned Imperial Pilots set, although nowhere near as severely as some. Fortunately, the Clones and Stormtroopers, who had well-established mold sets (and still do), managed to avoid this fiasco, and these three figures are all just fine and of proper height, thank you.

So what's my final word here? T his is an excellent set. You get Alpha as a Captain, you get a new Clone Commando character with better articulation than some of his predecessors, and you get the new and extremely impressive Storm Commando figure! That's a three-way win!

This is a set that will please any Star Wars fan, I assure you. The STAR WARS LEGACY COLLECTION "EVOLUTIONS" CLONE COMMANDO set definitely has my highest recommendation!