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By Thomas Wheeler

As I write this article, it's April 9. Technically, the Star Wars Episode 2 action figures are not scheduled for release until April 23. However, one quick search on eBay under any of the prominent character names will show that a far number of Wal-Marts, Targets, and K-Marts have jumped the gun a bit on these. So frankly, I see no harm in doing an early review.

A friend of mine was able to secure six of the forthcoming figures, and sent them to me. They're part of the "Collection 2" assortment, which is generally reserved for secondary characters. The assortment includes Boba Fett, Female Tusken Raider, Battle Droid, Shaak Ti, Captain Typho, and Plo Koon.

Several things are notable about all of these figures. For starters,
there's the new package design. While I'm not the least bit surprised that the prominent color is blue, one of the few colors not yet used as a background color on modern Star Wars packaging (we've seen orange, purple, red, and green to date), the overall redesign of the card did come as a surprise. The
figures are now centrally packaged instead of off to one side, and their names and a picture are now on a small paper insert within the larger bubble. There's also a printed border around the bubble that some have said is quite reminiscent of the 70's-80's Star Wars packaging. Additionally, hands holding a raised lightsaber have taken the place of the grim images of either Darth Vader or Darth Maul.

Now, as to the individual characters themselves. Hasbro is supposed to have used the "Real Scan" technology first incorporated by Jakks Pacific to obtain authentic likenesses of WWF superstars for their action figures. Star Wars figures are a good bit smaller than WWF toys, and given some of the bizarre
alien likenesses, it's a little hard to tell, at least in this assortment,
how effective the procedure has been. The only really distinctive
character in this assortment is young Boba Fett, son of ruthless bounty hunter Jango Fett. The likeness is good, even if the skin looks too pale compared to the darker-toned boy himself, actor Daniel Logan. This may be something that will have to be corrected along the way. His hair seems matted down, but this
may be deliberate. The figure's full designation is "Boba Fett - Kamino Escape", and the figure is wearing a small poncho. Insider reports indicate that one of the new worlds seen in he movie is a rather rain-soaked one, so perhaps they were trying to make young Boba look like he'd been out in the wet weather. Overall, it's a good figure, although I'm not entirely comfortable
with the fact that a figure of a child is holding two blaster pistols. He also comes with a rocket pack and a version of his father's helmet. Information on the back of the card speaks of some tragedy that befalls the youngster's life that puts him on the road to becoming a ruthless bounty hunter in his own right. This might not speak well of Jango Fett's chances for surviving the movie. Boba Fett is probably the most prominent character in this assortment

The only other figure in this batch that can really be assessed from a "Real Scan" standpoint is Captain Typho, described as a security aide to Queen Amidala. Relatively human in appearance, except for what looks like a prosthetic eye or eyepatch, the overall likeness is excellent, and the detail on the figure's uniform is superb. Actually, it's excellent on all of them. Clearly Hasbro is gradually increasing the level of detail on their figures.
Comparing the face sculpt of the figure to the photograph of the actor on the package results in an excellent overall likeness. I tend to worry about technology replacing human creativity (and I speak as a laid-off graphic artist who has severe doubts about ever being able to re-enter that profession), but if nothing else, I suspect that human sculptors are still responsible for designing the bodies of these toys. Typho is a good entry in the collection, even though I don't know how prominent a character he will
be. Hopefully he won't turn out to be Episode 2's version of Episode 1's "Ric Olie".

Next up we have Shaak Ti, listed as a Jedi Master. Here the "Real Scan" is a little ambivalent, for lack of a better word, because while Shaak Ti has a fairly human face, the head overall is anything but. The character has two head tentacles similar to Jabba's assistant, Bib Fortuna, or the dancer Oola, but I don't believe she's meant to be the same species, and in fact the
markings on the head are extremely patterned and colorful. Here the obviously complex paintwork comes through, and has been superbly carried out.

Speaking of Jedis, next there is Plo Koon, somewhat more active-looking than his previous version. His Jedi robe has been replaced with a shorter tunic, and he is clearly posed for action. Let me address the matter of pre-posing on these figures. I suspect one of the reasons for the packaging overhaul was
the need for these figures to have more room. Some of them, such as Shaak Ti, and I suspect others from other assortments, are dressed in long robes, and are posed in action positions that naturally cause those robes to flow outward, and they are sculpted as such. Normally I don't care for a figure being pre-posed, as it limits the play ability. And clearly, some of these toys are going to have trouble sitting in a vehicle or some such. Conversely,
this assortment isn't nearly as heavily pre-posed as early reports
indicated it would be. Some are moreso than others. Boba Fett, Typho, and Plo Koon are not terribly pre-posed. Shaak Ti is. I have little doubt that these toys will be successful regardless, and that some of these characters will see more than one version over the next few years as we build towards Episode 3. I would hope that some of those versions are not quite so pre-posed in such
extreme stances. They're supposed to be ACTION figures, not marginally movable plastic statues.

Moving on, we next have the Battle Droid. Obviously they play a role in Episode 2, and the figure looks much as it did before, although this is clearly a new sculpt, and again, somewhat pre-posed. It's not a bad figure, but I have the impression that it may turn out to be a shelf-warmer, simply because those that want Battle Droids probably got them with Episode 1.Finally we have the Female Tusken Raider with Tusken Child. This is the
really weird one of the assortment. Far more ornate and almost
regal-looking compared to the male Tusken Raiders we've been used to, the figure looks faintly Egyptian to me somehow. Maybe it's the desert origins of the character. Maybe it's because she looks a bit like a pharaoh and a bit like a mummy. And no "mummy" jokes just because she comes with a kid. The kid's
pretty bundled up, too. A fairly significant plot thread is given away on the back of the card to this figure, concerning Anakin Skywalker, but I won't reveal it here. Overall, it's not a bad figure, but there's something about it that makes it look more like it belongs in an Indiana Jones movie more than Star Wars.

Overall, though, I have little doubt that these toys will be a success,
as I am sure the movie will be. The toys will officially be released as of April 23. The movie arrives less than a month later in May. I think it's going to be a Star Wars summer. May the Force be with you!