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By Thomas Wheeler

Several new 12" Star Wars figures popped up in early February, much to my surprise. Normally I hear about this sort of thing well in advance either on Internet Newsgroups, assorted Web Sites, or online stores. This time, I walked into Toys "R" Us and -- surprise!

I bought two out of the four available, but I can provide brief reviews of all of them, even just on an observational standpoint. Let's take them in order:

PADMÉ AMIDALA: I sort of wish I hadn't bought this one, but it was the first 12" Episode II incarnation of a major character, and it didn't look too bad in the package, so I brought it home.

Hasbro, will you PLEASE come up with something better than this anorexic, barely-articulated, fashion-doll body for your female characters? Use the 12" G.I.Joe female body molds. Use the Leia body molds from several years ago before you made this switch. SOMEthing.

In fairness, the head is a nice sculpt, with rooted hair, and the outfit is well made and at least includes fabric sleeves, unlike the Zam Wesell doll from last year. And there's a well made accessory belt. The figure comes with two weapons which she is completely incapable of holding. Articulation is head, arms, waist, legs (forward and backward but not outward), and knees.

Bottom line on Amidala? Get this one only if you're a real completist for 12" figures of major characters from each Star Wars movie.

GEONOSIAN WARRIOR: Okay, this is more like it, assuming you're interested in a figure of the single most bug-ugly aliens to ever come out of the Star Wars Universe. And hopefully Lucas won't feel obliged to top himself in Episode III.

It's been widely reported that the insect-like Geonosians were based on termites. I've never seen a termite close up, nor do I have any great desire to, but certainly the Geonosians have a number of obvious insect-like similarities, including an exo-skeltal-like skin, multi-jointed arms and legs, an insect-like appearance to the head and body, and insect-like wings.

The Geonosian Warrior figure is very nicely made. The detail level is excellent, and the articulation is really quite good, including head, arms, elbows, legs, lower knees, and the wings. He comes with a staff that he can't quite hold, but it's a decent accessory.

The figure stands at 11-3/4" from head to foot, and I wonder if that isn't just a little tall. I was under the impression that the Geonosians were a rather short bunch, but given that they tend to stand rather crouched, and taking into consideration the multi-jointed legs, I could be mistaken.

The paintwork on the figure produces a semi-metallic sheen that adds to the insect-like appearance of the figure. Nice work here!

Bottom line on the Geonosian Warrior? If you don't mind having a Star Wars figure this ugly in your collection, I definitely recommend him.

ANAKIN SKYWALKER: A new version of the Episode II Anakin, but with few changes. Really the only change I can see is to the face. I think they were going for determined or angry, and instead he looks constipated.

Bottom line on Anakin? If you don't already have it, try to find the first Episode II version.

LEIA AS BOUSSH WITH CARBONITE BLOCK: This isn't mentioned on the package back to the other three, and is in different packaging with a $39.99 price tag at Toys "R" Us. I do not know if it is an exclusive to TRU.

Several years back, there was a K*B Exclusive of 12" Star Wars figures that included Luke, Han, and Leia as Boussh. That version was excellent. It didn't use the fashion doll body, for one thing, and the level of detail in the outfit was truly superb.

Hasbro's kept the uniform detail. This is one thing I will never complain about when it comes to Hasbro's line of 12" Star Wars figures. The amount of work and detail in the costuming is incredible.

Unfortunately, they've switched to the scrawny fashion doll body. That alone is a turn-off. But then there's the Carbonite Block. Instead of being a sculpted image of Han Solo frozen in Carbonite, Hasbro's using the same gimmick that they used for the G.I.Joe Vietnam Veterans Memorial set. It's a flat, backlit piece of hardware that when you press the button, a silhouetted image of Han Solo frozen in the carbonite appears. I don't know if they were trying to duplicate the scene where Leia, in the Boussh disguise, thaws him out, but it just doesn't come across very well.

Bottom line in Leia as Boussh with Carbonite Block? Forget it. It's not worth forty bucks, and only perpetuates the notion that these skinny fashion doll bodies are acceptable.

I'm not sure what else is in the works for the Star Wars 12" line for 2003. Hasbro's been pretty silent on that. I've heard several assorted rumors, but these days, I don't believe anything until I see it in the stores. I'm pleased that Hasbro is continuing the line, even if I believe this particular assortment has a few too many flubs to be considered a major hit in and of itself. However, I won't deny Hasbro's obvious efforts in maintaining the line, and certainly maintaining a high standard of quality in the uniforms and costumes. I definitely recommend the Geonosian Warrior. Get Padmé only if you really want a complete collection. And get the new Anakin only if you can't find the first version. And forget Leia as Boussh.

Beyond that, we'll see what else Hasbro brings us between now and Episode III.