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By Thomas Wheeler

There's no shortage of sources out there that provide information on forthcoming products from both the Clone Wars and Saga Legends collections. But you know, sometimes I don't mind being pleasantly surprised in the toy aisle.

That doesn't happen very much anymore. The Internet has made surprises virtually impossible. Maybe that's why, when it comes to Star Wars, for the most part, I'd just as soon browse it every so often and see what might be there. And admittedly, I'm also far from a completist when it comes to Star Wars action figures. Generally speaking, I buy Clone Troopers, Stormtroopers, and occasional Droids.

I was pleasantly surprised by a Target-exclusive two-pack. This two-pack included a new Clone Trooper, of a type that I had never heard of before, a "Special Ops" Clone, alongside a Geonosian Drone.

Anyway, the package back says "Clone Troopers battle Geonosian drones to stop the production of more Battle Droids. The Special Ops Clone Trooper is a highly skilled marksman. With his DC-15a blaster, he takes aim at the swarms of Geonosian drones that are attacking the Republic forces."

If the drones are swarming that much, you have to wonder just how much of a marksman he has to be. He's bound to hit something. Anyway, I'm sure that the two-pack represents some episode of the deservedly popular Clone Wars animated series, currently airing on Cartoon Network or grab the DVD's of Clone Wars.

Let's start this review with the main reason I bought this set, the Special Ops Clone Trooper. And for that, let's see what the highly informative Web Site of Wookieepedia has to say about Special Ops Clone Troopers.

Like all Clone Troopers, Special Ops Troopers were clones of the bounty hunter Jango Fett, and created on the planet Kamino. Special Ops Troopers were first officially seen when they assisted Jedi General Anakin Skywalker on a prototype stealth ship during the Battle of Christophsis against Admiral Trencg. The team in the ship were successful in their mission against Trench. They were later used during the Second Battle of Geonosis under the command of Jedi Master Ki-Adi-Mundi. Due to their specialized equipment, they were able to detect a Geonosian's wing vibrations inside a cave before entering, giving them warning of the danger ahead. Ki-Adi-Mundi led his troopers into the cave and were met with a large Geonosian force, many of the Special Ops Troopers were lost due to the Geonosians' overwhelming numbers and the aerial tactics they were allowed. But the team managed to push forward to left the remaining Geonosians to the Flame Thrower Clone Troopers. They were able to reach the rendezvous point at Obi-Wan Kenobi's position.

The entry also notes that Special Ops Troopers were equipped with large headphones integrated into their helmets, which gave them enhanced hearing and allowed them to pick up vibrations close by while also giving them extra protection for their ears. Their armor usually had a dark color for camouflage.

The headphones, it adds, were likely the rest of the original intended purpose of the Special Ops Troopers, who from a "behind the scenes" standpoint were designed to be communications officers.

So, how's the figure? Really excellent. Fortunately, the Special Ops Clone Trooper uses the better set of body molds available for Clone Troopers. There's one set out there with somewhat more restrictive movement and no ankle articulation that I really wish we'd never see again. But that's not the case with this one.

That comment about "dark color" for the armor, for the sake of camouflage -- sort of applies here. The Special Ops Clone Trooper is not dressed in white. However, if you're going to Geonosis, you don't really need to dress in that dark a color, either. While not exactly a bright world, it's a fairly barren one, and earth tones work as well as anything if you want some measure of camouflage, and that's what this Clone Trooper is wearing. The armor is mostly a dark tan, with some large, angular areas of brown. Interestingly, the brown has a somewhat glossy finish, the tan is more of a matte.

The "undersuit" is still painted black, visible as it is around the articulation points. I think one of the reasons I like Stormtrooper and Clone Trooper action figures as much as I do is because the design lends itself so well to being rendered as an action figure. You have this segmented armor, and the only places where "fabric" appears is at the normal points of human movement, which can readily be incorporated as the articulation points of the action figure, so you have a well-articulated action figure whose points of movement aren't really all that obvious. It's a great combination.

Not all of the Special Ops Clone Trooper is tan-and-brown, however. His shoulder armor is yellow orange, and has a distinctive emblem on it that looks like two curves and a couple of inverted "L" shapes. It's a fairly elegant design. Not entirely sure what, if anything, it's supposed to represent, other than a basic symbol of a given unit. It's imprinted on both shoulder pieces in a reddish-brown.

The most distinctive aspect of the Special Ops Clone Trooper is, of course, the helmet. While largely resembling a standard Clone Trooper helmet, complete with the T-shaped visor and most other standard details, there are those "integrated headphones". These appear on either side of the helmet as large, six-sided, polygonal shapes, yellow orange in color, with tan centers. The back of the helmet has also been modified, and lacks the usual indented area, nor is there a fin over the top of the helmet, as is customary. There's a very slight little indentation at the top of the visor, as well.

The figure is very neatly painted, and certainly well-articulated. The Special Ops Clone Trooper is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, legs, knees, and ankles. Most areas of articulation include rotational pivots or swivels as well as back and forth movement.

As for accessories, while the Special Ops Clone Trooper does indeed come with a standard blaster gun, he also comes with some sort of much larger weapon that fits on a tripod. I'm not entirely sure what this thing is, but I'm fairly certain it doesn't belong to the Geonosian -- it just doesn't really look like their technology -- and regardless of what it is, I don't think I'd want to be on the wrong end of it. It's an impressive device, in any case, and certainly a cool accessory to be included with this set.

Now, let's consider the Geonosian Drone. Honestly, he's not the reason I picked up this set, and I didn't really expect to be impressed by him. I was certainly aware of the Geonosians. They had a major role in Star Wars: Episode II, and were responsible for the armies of Battle Droids, and apparently the initial construction of the Death Star. But they were such creepy things...! I read where they had been based, to some degree, on termites, and they did have a certain insectoid look about them.

However, I have to say that, whatever my opinion may be of Geonosians, the figure of this Geonosian Drone does impress me, and considerably so!

Since I've never really reviewed a Geonosian extensively before, let's once again see what Wookieepedia has to say about this bizarre species.

Not surprisingly, their nicknames among Clone Troopers were "Geos" or just as often, "Bugs". They resided in catacomb-like hive colonies beneath the organic-looking spires of their homeworld.

Like all insect-type species, Geonosians had a hard exoskeleton that provided protection from physical impact and bouts of radiation that showered their world. They also had elongated faces, multi-jointed limbs, and spoke in a language of clicks and whistles.

Geonosians were strong despite their slender limbs, and were capable of constructing massive hives and factories in concert. They were considered barbaric by other races, largely because they viewed brutal violence as entertainment. They enjoyed watching victims trying to survive in massive execution arenas while being attacked by savage predators. Despite this, they were technical geniuses, capable of constructing structures such as their own hives, and the massive foundries where they built Battle Droids.

Sometime in the distant past Geonosis' largest moon was hit by a rogue comet, sending out a massive debris field that hammered the planet's surface into ruin, and killing off more than 99% of Geonosis' native species. Over millions of years, the few creatures that survived the devastation slowly reclaimed the planet. Only the truly cunning, hardy, and ruthless could survive in the new environment. The Geonosians qualified on all three counts.

Once the technical-minded Geonosians made contact with the galaxy, the Baktoid Armor Workshop moved several droid and weapon factories to the planet.

In 24 BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin), during the reign of Archduke Poggle the Lesser, Geonosis became a member of the Confederacy of Independent Systems, which used the planet's factories to build the Droid Army.

After the formation of the Empire, the Geonosians were primarily used as slave labor, but during the Rebellion a Geonosian revolt was instigated by Rebel forces, who had built a secret base on Geonosis. After the death of Emperor Palpatine, Geonosis established an isolationist policy, not wishing to have a repeat of what happened at the beginning of the Clone Wars.

In Geonosian society there were two main types of Geonosians: the wingless drones that mostly worked as laborers, and the winged aristocracy, which included royal warriors serving as scouts, and providing security to the hive. The importance of the hive was strongly ingrained in the Geonosian mind, and they were also contemptuous of other species.

The information goes on to say that the warrior caste tended to be winged, while the worker caste wasn't. Don't even get me started on the zombie caste. Interestingly, the figure that I have here does not have any wings, but there are two holes in his back that might accommodate them. I suspect that this is not the first usage of this figure. The figure has a 2010 copyright date (on the underside of his tunic), so he's nevertheless fairly recent.

So, how's the figure? Honestly, I didn't expect to be impressed. I mostly bought this set for the Clone Trooper. But -- I'm impressed. Extremely so, in fact. That a figure this strange-looking can have as good a sense of balance as he does, that a figure with the very spindly limbs that this one has can also be as well articulated as he is -- is very impressive.

The design of the figure helps the articulation. In a strange sense, he's akin to the Clone Trooper in this respect. The Clone Trooper wears a suit of sectioned armor, that lends itself well to a well-articulated action figure design, where the articulation points are not all that apparently. Similarly, the Geonosian Drone, like any number of insect species, has a segmented exoskeleton, a sort of natural armor, that also allows for the articulation points to be worked into the design of the figure without being all that apparent.

Geonosians are not a particularly aesthetically-pleasing species to look at by human standards. The Geonosian drone has a long head, with two bulbous eyes with narrow slits protruding from the side, two arched slits for nostrils, a small, downturned mouth that is at the end of a jawline that almost looks like an appendage.

The head rests atop a neck that is at the top of an almost human-looking upper torso, with two spindly arms out to the side. These arms, extremely thin but relatively humanoid in shape, have elbows and wrists, and hands with two long fingers and a thumb, each.

It's below the upper torso that the insectoid nature of the Geonosian really takes over. The rest of the torso looks more like an insectoid thorax, ending in a short not-quite-tail. If Geonosians had been based on bees instead of termites, there'd be a stinger back there. The lower torso to the hops is a highly segmented and armored area. Two thin legs protrude from the side, and are almost entirely non-humanoid. The first come outward and down, then sweep back along a knee joint, and then come downward yet again on a second, backwards knee, before ending in strange-looking feet that feature two narrow toes pointing outward, and one toe back, with arched toes.

Standing like this, a fairly neutral stance, one assumes, the Geonosian is a somewhat short creature, roughly shoulder high to the Clone Trooper. One suspects that if a Geonosian is capable of straightening his legs and maintaining his balance while doing so, he could perhaps look down on the average human.

One thing in the favor of these bizarre aliens in the Clone Wars line. Granted the Clone Wars series has its own distinctive look, and nowhere is this more apparent on the human characters. They're stylized, sometimes excessively so in my opinion. However, you can take some of these more peculiar life forms, and even if you stylize them a bit, they still work well within any aspect of the Star Wars universe, just because they were so strange to begin with.

The skin color of the Geonosian Drone is a sort of dark grey-brown, and almost has a mottled look to it. It's easily one of the most effective colorings of an action figure that I've seen, insofar as matching a pre-determined likeness is concerned, and I can't quite tell if it was done by some sort of molded method (which I believe to be the case), or paint (which I doubt). But it certainly worked. The Geonosians eyes are painted a glossy black. The joints are a lighter shade of reddish brown, almost a copper, relative to the rest of the figure.

The Geonosian does not wear much clothes. He has a fancy piece around his neck, gold in color, ridged, with a circular blue something or other in the center, that's almost placed right where Iron Man keeps his ARC reactor, although I certainly doubt that's what this is. The Geonosian also has a tunic around his -- waist, for lack of a better anatomical term, that's a sort of dull copper in color, and has been given a dark paint wash to bring out the details. It also has a red, oval-shaped gemstone at its base. This particular piece has an astounding amount of detail sculpted into it.

Just as astounding is the articulation level of the figure. Hasbro has gotten very good at articulating surprisingly narrow pieces. Between these guys, Battle Droids, and Commando Droids, it's really very impressive. The Geonosian Drone is very poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, legs, front knees, and feet. The back knees are not articulated. Let's give them a break, shall we? Most of the articulation points not only have back and forth movement, but rotational swivels, as well! That's a heck of a lot of articulation to put into something with such skinny limbs!

Paintwork on the Geonosian is fairly minimal, but where it appears, it is very neatly done. For accessories, the drone comes with a bizarre-looking alien blaster, that looks like it would also make an effective enough club at close range, if the thing should run out of juice.

The set also includes two display bases, as well as a plastic die and game cards for the Galactic Battle Game presently being offered in Star Wars action figure products.

So what's my final word here? I bought this set initially mostly for the Special Ops Clone Trooper, and he's an extremely impressive and distinctive figure that I am very pleased to add to my own branch of the Grand Army of the Republic. Nevertheless, I am also extremely impressed by the Geonosian Drone, and I didn't really expect to be. He's a weird little bug, but he's extremely well-made and well-detailed, and certainly the Geonosians are an established part of the Star Wars universe. He's impressive enough to have garnered a prominent place in my collection. If you're mostly a Clone collector and think that this set isn't worth it because of the Drone, trust me, you'll like the Drone, too.

And I believe that any Star Wars action figure collector will be pleased with this Target exclusive set.

The STAR WARS CLONE WARS two-pack featuring the SPECIAL OPS CLONE TROOPER and the GEONOSIAN DRONE definitely has my highest recommendation!