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By Thomas Wheeler

It doesn't really matter what toy line you're talking about, there is one simple, basic truth. Trooper figures sell. There's no shortage of people out there, both kids and collectors who, as finances provide, like to "army-build". In G.I.Joe, almost any Cobra trooper, regardless of his designation or specialty, will sell multiple versions. In Gundam Wing, collectors snagged Mobile Suit Leos whenever they could. Even in Justice League, the Rocket Red figure, even though only one was seen in the animated series, has been a hard one to find, because people know that in the overall concept, there's an entire brigade of these guys.

Certainly this applies to Star Wars. Stormtroopers and Clone Troopers are always the first to vanish. Almost any Imperial troopers will be snagged from the shelves as soon as they arrive.

The Death Star Gunner is number "041" of the current Star Wars Saga Collection. Although technically listed as being part of the Return of the Jedi segment, based on the corner color of his package card and the movie logo molded onto his standing base, this is more a convenience of which assortment he was placed in as much as anything. Sort of like putting Darth Vader in the Empire Strikes Back assortment. Yes, he was in that movie. He was also in all of the others. Similarly, the Death Star Gunner also appeared in the first Star Wars movie, as well as Jedi.

The profile information for the Death Star Gunner on the back of the package card reads:

Specialty: Heavy Artillery

Weapon of Choice: Death Star Superlaser

Satisfied by: Blasting Y-Wings into vapor.

Well, that's interesting. Designating this character's specialty as "Heavy Artillery" is an understatement roughly akin to saying a flood can leave things slightly moistened, and if he's using the Death Star to "blast Y-Wings into vapor", that's a bit like swatting flies with a Mack Truck. Somebody's got an interesting sense of humor, whoever wrote this.

The profile went on to outline the Battle of Endor: The immense weaponry of the Imperial Fleet were operated by these highly skilled gunners. They were easily recognizable in their large, distinctive helmets, which were designed to protect them from the dangerous flashback of the turbolaser batteries. Accustomed to the vast power under their control, they operated with smooth, calm precision, even during the fiercest battles.

Certainly the figure is extremely impressive, and unlike some of the entries in the Saga Collection, which have been brought back after several years' absence from the collection (not a big deal if you missed them the first time around), the Death Star Gunner is all new. He carries a 2006 copyright date on the bottom of his boot, and is a surprisingly intricate figure for a relatively generic and not often seen trooper.

My only complaint with the figure are his proportions. He seems a little long in the torso, and a little short and skinny in the legs and arms. It's not that big a deal, but it is a little noticeable. I haven't really had a chance to compare him to other Star Wars figures yet, though, so I may just be imagining it.

One thing that concerned me was the separate chestplate piece, when I studied the figure on card. How the heck was I supposed to fit this thing over that helmet? Indeed, the helmet of the Death Star Gunner is an interesting piece of work. It has a long, sloped back, a narrow visor, and what almost looks like the helmet version of an "underbite", in that the lower section of the front of the helmet actually protrudes further out than the top. It's a very unusual design, but the explanation for it in the character description is plausible.

Well, I opened the figure, and much to my surprise, the helmet is removable! There's a quite generic-looking but fully-painted face underneath, made a bit more generic in appearance by the fact that it doesn't have any eyebrows. I guess that helmet only allows for so much protection from that flashback. Anyway, with the helmet off, the chestplate fits over the head and into place very nicely.

One nice thing -- there's certainly no paint problems with this figure. Granted, there's not a lot of paint, either. The face is very neatly painted, but apart from that, there's just a few small silver details, including the Imperial insignia on the helmet, and a few areas, such as the boots, gloves, and belts, have been painted in a gloss black to set them apart from the more matte black of the rest of the uniform. There's a very slight, barely perceptible reddish tinge to the visor on the helmet, as well. All of these areas have been very nearly painted.

The articulation of the Death Star Gunner is excellent. The head has a full range of motion. The arms move forward, backward, and outward. The elbows have that "diagonal cut" which I'm really not that fond of, but it works well enough, I suppose. Wrists are articulated at the glove tops. The figure also is moveable at the waist, legs, and knees, both back and rotating. While not in the "Super-Articulated" class, it's certainly an excellent level of articulation.

The Death Star Gunner comes with a small blaster pistol, which unfortunately doesn't fit especially well into the pouch-like holster on the figure's belt. I recommend either making sure the pistol is well secured in the figure's hand, or putting the pistol, along with perhaps the package card and display base, into a Ziploc bag to keep everything together. Star Wars handheld weapons tend to be pretty small, and unfortunately are all too often turned into vacuum cleaner bait.

On the whole, this is truly an excellent figure, and a superb example of what Hasbro can do with Star Wars when they're really paying attention to the details of it. As of this writing, Hasbro has announced several new assortments of figures, that are heavy on droids and assorted clone troopers of various specialties. No doubt these are going to fly from the shelves as soon as they hit. However, I look forward to adding many of them to my collection, and reviewing them as I do.

Meanwhile, the Death Star Gunner is a good lead-in to this forthcoming influx of troopers, and he's an extremely impressive figure in his own right, and he definitely has my high recommendation for any Star Wars fan!