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By Thomas Wheeler

This interesting addition to the STAR WARS Collection turned up at Wal-Mart in late January, and I am fairly sure it's an exclusive.

The TIE Bomber was first seen in the second movie, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, in 1980. These variants of the basic TIE Fighters were seen bombarding the asteroid in which Han Solo had concealed the Millennium Falcon.

TIE Bombers are actually closer in appearance to Darth Vader's custom TIE Fighter than they are to basic TIE Fighters. They're darker in color, have the "indented" wing panels as opposed to the straight-out six-sided ones, and a longer cockpit. The main difference is that TIE Bombers appear to have a second cockpit module. This is, in fact, the bomb container, for lack of a better term.

TIE Bombers are designed to blanket an area with proton bombs, which are dropped from this second module. The toy comes with three of these bombs, which the vehicle can drop as it "flies" along by pressing a button on top of the vehicle.

The TIE Bomber toy is pretty good-sized for a Star Wars vehicle. It's about a foot from one wing to the other wide, over ten inches long, and almost seven inches in height. It's crafted from study but slightly flexible plastic, and is superbly well-detailed.

The only very slight negative point to the vehicle is that it has the most pointless battle damage attempt I've ever seen. Two little silver-star shapes can be seen on the black areas of the wings, and one wing has a couple of black blast smudges. The silver shapes on the black panels can be easily eradicated with a bit of flat black acrylic paint. The black smudges can probably be erased with any decent paint remover that doesn't adversely affect plastic. I'm never fond of "battle-damaged" toys, but these markings are so minimal and silly they're almost funny. You wonder why they bothered.

The TIE Bomber comes with an excellent Imperial TIE Fighter Pilot, that is an entirely separate figure, for those who might have been concerned that he was molded into the cockpit or some such. He isn't, and he's a very nicely made and well-detailed figure, done in both glossy and flat black colors, and is fully articulated, even at the knees, which is still somewhat unusual for Star Wars figures. The cockpit of the TIE Bomber is well detailed for his piloting skills, there's a distinct hatchway for his use, and the cockpit window is clear.

Overall, this is a truly excellent Star Wars vehicle. It's a little pricey, at $28.64 at Wal-Mart, but the six that I saw on display when they first arrived seemed to disappear fairly quickly, so there's no question as to its popularity, and I most definitely recommend the STAR WARS TIE BOMBER toy!