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By Thomas Wheeler

It's not easy to be surprised in the toy aisles anymore. More often than not, the average collector has several months' notice before a toy actually arrives in the stores, and he's probably spent a fair portion of those several months hanging around the toy stores and toy departments waiting for it to show up.

However -- I was pleased to be surprised with the appearance of a new Astromech Droid in the Star Wars Legacy Collection. Somehow or other, I just hadn't heard about this one. I readily added him to my collection.

His name is R2-X2. And -- well -- there's not a whole lot to say about him, as far as character background is concerned. The package card reads: R2-X2 is the on-board astromech droid for Red Ten during the Battle of Yavin. The R2 series astromech droid aids the Rebel Alliance X-Wing fighter pilot during the trench run to destroy the Galactic Empire's Death Star battle station.

Now, usually, I turn to WikiPedia or some other more specific Web Site for further details to present. I think it's important when reviewing an action figure to provide a good amount of insight into the background of the character. Otherwise it's just a piece of plastic. In the case of Star Wars figures, I have found that the best Web Site is the Star Wars-based Wiki-type Web Site called "Wookieepedia".

Unfortunately, they didn't have a whole lot more to say. Wokkieepedia's entry on R2-X2 reads: R2-X2 was the astromech droid used by Theron Nett (Red 10) during the Battle of Yavin. He was destroyed when Nett's X-Wing starfighter was shot down.

About all that gives us is Red 10's real name and the fact that neither one of them survived the Battle of Yavin. I'll give Wookieepedia this -- they had a better head shot (dome shot?) of R2-X2 than the figure package, although it looks like it's nearly the same background.

The only other tidbit of detail is that apparently R2-X2 was part of the Star Wars Customizable Card Game.

So, what can I say about this droid? Well, I think it's been a little while since I've provided the backstory on the R2 droids in general, so let's turn briefly to the book, "The New Star Wars Essential Guide to Droids", a book I highly recommend for anyone why enjoys the various droids of the Star Wars universe.

R2-X2, like all R-type droids, is the product of a company called Industrial Automaton. They are described within the book as one of the "big two" of droid manufacturers in the Star Wars galaxy, the other being Cybot Galactica. Industrial Automaton is a massive and influential droid corporation formed long ago through the merger of Automata Galactica and Industrial Intellect. Known for its high-precision merchandise and deep discounts, the company's crowning glory is the universally-accepted R-series of astromech droids.

I'd say that's a fair assessment, that "universally-accepted" remark, when you consider that both the Empire and the Rebels used these droids, and before that, I suspect both the Republic and the Separatists had them. These things were all over the place.

Industrial Automaton's R-series of droids actually started out with the R1, a massive contraption bearing only a superficial resemblance to the more compact droids of R2 and up. Interestingly enough, Hasbro actually made an R1-droid figure a few years ago.

It was with the R2 that the more recognizable "fireplug" droids came into being. Says the book: The record-breaking R2 exploded the popularity of the astromech droid. This waist-high unit fits perfectly into the standard socket of a military starfighter. Once plugged in, the R2 unit can monitor flight performance, fix technical problems, and boost power from the shipboard systems. It can hold up to ten sets of hyperspace coordinates in memory, and possesses the intelligence to perform engine start-up and pre-flight taxiing. Standard equipment on an R2 includes two manipulator arms, an electric arc welder, a circular saw, a hologrammic projector, an internal cargo compartment, and a fire extinguisher. Many buyers have tricked out their R2's with add-ons including underwater propellers, booster rockets, magnetic grip treads, and inflatable life rafts.

Which probably goes a long way to explain how R2-D2 was able to fly in the prequel movies, but not in the Classic Trilogy.

The Star Wars New Essential Guide to Droids is really a great book, I believe it to still be in print, or at least available, and I certainly recommend it to any Star Wars droid fans. Disney fans in particular should take a look at the entry just preceding the one on the R-series droids, which features the G2 "Goose Droids" from Star Tours.

The book's entry on R-type droids goes all the way through R9's, with really superb computer-based illustrations of each type. Anytime Hasbro wants to start making more of these different types, it's fine with me. At least we got a couple of R7's a while back in the "Droid Factory" concept.

I'll admit, I like the R2-type droid figures Hasbro has turned out. I'll always readily welcome one into my collection. They're cool, and cute in a way that you can get away with having something "cute" in an otherwise relatively serious action figure collection.

One does sort of end up wondering what the average Coruscant showroom for Industrial Automaton must look like, though, given the wide range of color schemes. While it's been a very long time since I've shopped for a car, I know that certain cars are available only in certain colors. Those stopping by their nearest dealership hoping to find something in neon pink and green are likely to be disappointed, although the rest of the driving public is likely to be grateful.

It would appear, however, that either Industrial Automaton is far more liberal with their offerings of colors, or they leave the color choice entirely up to the buyer before he, she, or it actually picks up their droid. Just based on my own collection here, I have, of course, R2-D2 with his mostly white body, silver dome, and dark blue trim. But, I also have R2-type droids here with white bodies, silver domes, and green trim, one with orange trim, one that's mostly a sort of brick red-orange in color, another one that looks like the color of faded blue jeans (and he's not even the strangest of the lot, but he's close...), one with an orange dome and pewter legs, another with a brown dome, one with a copper dome, one that's mostly dark blue, one that's mostly dark red, a rather patriotic-looking one (as if anyone in the Star Wars universe has even heard of the U.S. of A) that has a red dome, white trim, and a dark blue body, a black one, a mostly purple one (three guesses whose that is and they're all Mace Windu), one with pink trim, and that's just the R2's! That doesn't even include the R3's, R4's, R5's, or R7's. It also doesn't include EntertainmentEarth's special five-packs of Astromech Droids, which I missed out on!

And you thought Clone Troopers were numerous. And yes, all gathered together on the same display shelf, it looks pretty wild.

Now, you'd think I might have had enough, right? But, they're not that expensive, and they don't take up much space. My kind of action figure. And this one really was sincerely a surprise, so that, as far as I was concerned, was all the more reason to add him to the collection.

One might think it would be hard to look distinctive in a crowd like that, and yes, some of the Astromech Droids stand out more than others. R2-X2 is really pretty distinctive. For one thing, he has a WHITE DOME. I don't think I've ever seen that before. There are plenty of R2-droids that have white BODIES, including R2-D2 himself. And a lot of R2-type droids have light colored or light metallic-colored domes, such as silver. But I don't think I've ever seen a white-DOMED R2-droid before. So that sets R2-X2 apart from the crowd right there.

R2-X2's main body is a deep forest green. Again, this is not a color I have encountered on a droid before. There have been some droids before with green trim on them. I don't think there's been one with an entirely green body (dome notwithstanding) before, and certainly not in this dark a shade of green. Perhaps this is what made him stand out to me in the display in the store.

There are three colors of trim on R2-X2. On the dome, the main color of trim is the same dark green as his body. This can be seen around the eyepiece, on the top of his dome, and in two narrow striped encircling the dome near eye level. Rather unusually, the panels at the base of the dome, which are usually painted the main trim color, are not colored on R2-X2. They've been left white.

The main trim colors on R2-X2's body are black and silver. The black is difficult to see, because of how dark a green the main body is. However, in good light, one can tell that the recessed areas below the dome that are small manipulator arms are painted black, as are stripes on the outer "shoulders" of the two outer legs. Six little ridges on the front of the body have also been painted black.

The silver trim is more extensive on R2-X2, and obviously, more noticeable. This includes the two vent-like devices on his front, a great deal of the detail around his base on the front and back, as well as on his two outer legs. There's a bit of silver trim on his dome, as well. In addition, there is a silver ring around the base of his dome.

There are a number of R2-type molds available for Hasbro to use. One of them features a snap-on center leg. The second one, and my personal preference, and the one that has been used to manufacture R2-X2, features an interesting little "action feature". Normally I oppose built-in action features in action figures, because they have a tendency to hurt either the look or the articulation of the figure itself. But this particular feature does neither. Turn R2-X2's dome, and the center third leg slowly lowers from inside the body. Don't turn it too far. When you hear the dome start clicking, it's time to stop. Turning the dome the other way retracts the leg.

One doesn't really expect a lot of articulation from an R2-droid, but R2-X2 has about what one would expect. His outer legs move back and forth, and the "ankles" are poseable. The third center leg descends and retracts, and the dome turns. Additionally, each of his three legs has a little wheel built into its base. R2-X2 is not going to be able to keep up with a Hot Wheels car, certainly, but he can be rolled well enough across a smooth surface.

The paintwork on R2-X2 is very neatly done. I was especially pleased to see this, since on occasion, some of the paint work on Star Wars figures can be a little slipshod, even on the droids (ask R5-D4). But generally speaking, the droids are neatly painted these days, and R2-X2 is no exception. He's also a very clean droid. There's no weathering on him, fortunately. This isn't something that turns up often in the droids, but it does once in a while. Still, I doubt that R2-X2, serving a pilot, was often exposed to environments where he'd get dirty like that.

So, what's my final word here? Okay, the poor droid got blown up in the Battle of Yavin. So, that's sort of the extent of his backstory. So -- he's still a cool droid. There's absolutely no reason not to add him to your Star Wars collection, and especially if you happen to like the Star Wars astromech droids, here's a surprisingly distinctive one to bring into your regalia of robotic fireplugs. I'm glad I've got him, and I was pleased that I can still be pleasantly surprised in the toy aisle when I discovered him.

The STAR WARS LEGACY COLLECTION figure of ASTROMECH DROID R2-X2 definitely has my highest recommendation!