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REVIEW:
STAR WARS COMIC SETS #05 - QUINLAN VOS & VILMARH GRAHRK - and #07 - OBI-WAN KENOBI & ARC TROOPER ALPHA
By Thomas Wheeler


If it worked for G.I. Joe, why shouldn't it work for Star Wars? As part of the 30th Anniversary line of Star Wars figures, Hasbro has opted to produce a series of comic-packs -- two figures with a reprinted comic book from the lengthy assorted runs of various Star Wars comics over the years.

Dark Horse Comics Star Wars titles -- pretty much took the Star Wars universe and ran with it, with LucasFilm's blessing, of course, creating an "expanded universe" that has kept things interesting between the prequel movies, and delving into time periods ranging from years beyond Return of the Jedi to the days of the Old Republic centuries before the Star Wars era that we saw in the movies.

One of the more interesting time periods that Dark Horse played with were the Clone Wars. Since Star Wars Episode II presented the opening salvos of the Clone Wars, and it was pretty much assured that Episode III would present their conclusion with the rise of the Empire, this gave Dark Horse three years in which to play out the Clone Wars themselves, and they did a superb job of it.

Dark Horse released a series of trade paperbacks (nine volumes) entitled CLONE WARS, which present the best of comic stories between Episode II and Episode III. If you've been starved for cool Star Wars stories since the movie concluded, here's precisely what you need. Dark Horse created a huge number of characters that appeared in these books, intertwining them with the characters established in the movies. Some of these individuals became hugely popular, and it goes almost without saying that there has been a demand for action figures of them. Finally, with these comic sets, Hasbro is getting around to some of them.

Almost certainly leading the list by a considerable margin has been Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos, and he is finally available in a set with a reprint comic, and a second character named Vilmarh Grahrk. But Quinlan Vos became so popular among Star Wars fans, that he even received a brief mention in the third movie. Remember when Anakin arrived in a meeting room and apologized to Obi-Wan Kenobi for missing the briefing? Obi-Wan brought him up to date, and said that "Master Vos has moved his troops to Boz Pity." That was a nice little nod to the comics-created character of Quinlan Vos. The character was ALMOST cast and filmed in the movie, but this didn't quite happen. A shame. It would've been cool.

However, one also has to reason that it probably would've been in the sequence where "Order 66" was given and the Jedi Knights were brought down by the Clone Troopers. This would've been a bit of a downer, and anyway, in the comics books, Dark Horse allowed Quinlan Vos to survive. Vos was a complicated character. His species was known as Kiffar, and he had the unusual ability of psychometry, which allowed him to read "memories" from inanimate objects through physical contact. His connection to established characters was considerable, given that he was briefly a student of Qui-Gon Jinn, and helped to train Aayla Secura.

Quinlan Vos was portrayed as a rather dark character, always riding the ragged edge of the Dark Side of the Force. He had trained in certain lightsaber skills that rode that edge, and during the Clone Wars, he was assigned to infiltrate Count Dooku's camp. Throughout the comics, one was never entirely sure whose side Vos was really had. Had he slipped to the Dark Side, or was he just playing his role very effectively?

Certainly Quinlan looked the part of someone who could go over to the Dark Side. He had rather shadowed eyes, and his hair was long, black dreadlocks. He had a yellow stripe tattooed across his face, a family mark, and really, the guy just didn't look much like a typical Jedi.

He struck up a relationship with one of his associates, a woman named Khaleen, who eventually became pregnant and bore his child in the
aftermath of the Clone Wars. Precisely how long Quinlan survived after the rise of the Empire, or what he did, remains unrevealed. However, he briefly appeared in the comic book "Ghost", which took place about 10 years before the first Star Wars movie. A teenage Han Solo met Quinlan while looking for a map. Bounty hunters appeared, and Han was pushed into a Sarlaac. Quinlan used his Force powers to rescue him. Vos looked considerably older and war-scarred when Han encountered him.

The figure of Quinlan Vos is, for the most part, excellent. The eyes are perhaps not quite shadowed-looking enough, but this would be nearly impossible to accomplish effectively on such a small figure. The overall look of the figure captures the comic book likeness superbly well. Quinlan is dressed in what looks like chest-armor that frankly looks like he stole it from a Klingon. He is wearing a long, dark grey tunic, dark brown trousers, and black boots. There's a holster and blaster off to his right. Quinlan, unlike most Jedi, was not above using whatever hardware was on hand. He also comes with a green lightsaber.

Overall, the paintwork on the figure is excellent, and this is also clearly an all-new figure. He has a 2007 copyright date on the bottom of his boot. This, however, leads me to the one fairly serious complaint I have about this figure -- ARTICULATION! While the arms are very well articulated -- shoulders, elbows, including a swivel, and top of the gauntlets to allow for a wrist swivel, and while the head is very poseable on a ball and socket design, and the figure turns at the waist -- however, my only complaint is that his legs have absolutely NO articulation in the knees or ankles.

Now let's consider the other figure in the set - Vilmarh Grahrk. I'll admit I haven't been that faithful a follower of the Star Wars comics by Dark Horse. I do have the Clone Wars trade paperbacks, so I've got a pretty good idea of most of the characters, even if I don't have every single one of their appearances, and may be a little hazy on some specific details. But based on what I've seen, I would have to describe Vilmarh Grahrk as the Star Wars universe's equivalent of -- Quark. Okay, so I keep making Star Trek comparisons. I'm a fan of both. Sue me. Now, I'm not saying that Vilmarh Grahrk, who lets his friends call him "Uncle Villie" and I hope he's prepared to consider me a friend, because the only way I've been able to type "Vilmarh Grahrk" correctly this many times was to cut-and-paste it, is a big-eared bartender with a greedy, self-serving attitude and a predilection for loud clothing. Villie is not a bartender. Nor does he have large ears or dress in outlandish clothes. But personality-wise, there's some similarities.

Villie came across as the type who would basically work for the highest bidder, but had just enough scruples to do the right thing if there was enough money in it for him and he wasn't put at TOO great a risk in the process, and if someone who needed his help was someone Villie moderately considered a friend. He also had a speech pattern that made Yoda sound downright normal. Villie is a Devaronian, one of those species that first turned up in the Mos Eisley Cantina. Villie was a smuggler, gambler, and probably a mercenary here and there, more than capable of a wide variety of underhanded schemes in his quest for money and other rewards. Quark would've loved this guy.

I'm sure that Villie didn't want to get entangled to any great lengths in the Clone Wars, least of all finding himself associated with a Jedi on a fairly frequent basis, but that's the sort of thing that war will cause. Villie was last seen on Kashyyyk, having helped Quinlan Vos avoid death at the hands of the Clone Troopers, and helping to smuggle Khaleen to his side. One may presume that Villie helped the couple and their son get offworld and to some presumably reasonably safe location -- for proper compensation, of course.

The figure is a nice piece of work, and like the Quinlan figure, is all-new, at least if the 2007 copyright date is any indication. Given the red-tinged skin and horns characteristic to the Devaronians, it's a little hard to avoid certain unpleasant comparisons regarding Villie's physical appearance, and admittedly he's not an entirely nice guy, but I don't think it would be fair to describe him as being as evil as the entity he vaguely resembles.

Villie is dressed rather darkly, in a dark brown tunic with black sleeves and legs. He has a separate shoulder belt, and a holster into which his blaster pistol fits. There's a bit of silver trim, mostly armor, around his shoulders. The figure is nicely detailed and neatly painted. This is always nice to see, given the occasional sloppiness that can creep into this line. Unfortunately, Villie has the same articulation problem as Quinlan Vos! The head and arms are very well articulated, but there's no knee or ankle articulation whatsoever. Annoying though this is on both figures, it doesn't cost the set my recommendation.

The set, it should be noted, comes with a reprint of Star Wars #19, which is the first time we meet Quinlan Vos and Vilmarh Grahrk, and indeed the first time they meet each other. It's a cool story, and worth the read. Articulation complaints aside, this IS a cool set, with certainly one VERY popular character and a well-known associate of his. Any longtime Star Wars fan who has paid any significant attention to the non-movie material such as the comic books is going to want this set. Here, finally, is the Quinlan Vos action figure, and Vilmarh Grahrk is pretty cool too.

Now let's consider another set. This one, #07 by designation, features Obi-Wan Kenobi, and an ARC Trooper, whom most fans who have followed the comic books to any degree will know as Alpha. More on him in a few minutes. Let's first consider the Obi-Wan Kenobi figure.

Since the events of the comic book included with this set -- Star Wars Republic #55, take place not long after Episode II, during the early years of the Clone Wars, the Obi-Wan Kenobi figure included in this two-pack more closely resembles Obi-Wan from this time period. The headsculpt has slightly longer hair, and there's no indication of grey in it. This is really a superb figure of Obi-Wan, although I suspect it has seen use before. I'm just not sure when, as the usual place to find a copyright date, the bottom of the foot, had no such information on it this time.

The Obi-Wan figure has a superb headsculpt, with a calm but determined look to it. The figure is wearing a plastic-molded sleeveless robe, with the arms of the figure being an extension of that robe, but attached to the main body of the figure, and fully articulated. Interestingly, and somewhat curiously in my opinion, the lower tunic of the figure is made from cloth. I also recommend handling it very gently. It's a fairly coarse cloth, it's not hemmed, and it looks like it could fray rather easily. But the combination of a plastic outer robe and a partially-fabric tunic is an interesting one. The legs are superbly articulated, poseable not only at the hip, but also full range of motion including swivels at the knees and ankles. This is excellent for Obi-Wan, but will be a source of mild annoyance to those who also purchased the Quinlan Vos set and discovered that figure had no leg articulation to speak of, and neither did his buddy, Vilmarh Grahrk.

Obi-Wan comes with a light blue lightsaber, and another interesting accessory, a second head that can be snapped into place. During the course of the comic books, Obi-Wan was captured by one of Count Dooku's agent, a vicious woman named Asajj Ventress, who placed a mask on Kenobi's head that, if memory serves, dampened his Force abilities and also caused him considerable pain in the process. Like I said, interesting accessory.

Now let's consider ARC Trooper Alpha. Although he's only listed on the package as an ARC Trooper, most fans know which ARC Trooper this is, and certainly the comic book story itself gives this away.

ARC Troopers were one of the first special divisions of Clone Troopers ever presented in the Star Wars storyline after the Clone Wars broke out. Unlike most clones, the ARC Troopers had a somewhat higher level of individuality -- although they still obeyed the orders of their Jedi commanders without question -- and had been given special training in tactics and other battle strategies by Jango Fett himself.

Originally known as "A-17", Alpha was assigned to the Clone Troopers that accompanied Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. During a battle on one of the moons of Naboo, A-17 used a diversion caused by Anakin to set of a series of explosives that destroyed an enemy base. However, the explosion was larger than A-17 had expected, and he was disabled in the blast. Surviving the battle formed a close bond between A-17 and Anakin. Asking what the "A" stood for, Anakin nicknamed his clone friend Alpha, feeling it to be more of a name than just "A-17". It didn't seem to make a lot of difference to Alpha, who remarked that he didn't care what he was called, he was just there to do his job, essentially.

Alpha would continue to serve with Obi-Wan and Anakin, including in the Battle of Jabiim months later. Alpha's greater sense of individuality often showed itself as a certain ruthlessness in battle. He believed that they key to victory was to destroy the enemy -- period. He disagreed with letting enemy soldiers survive, and believed that enemy leaders should be killed at every opportunity. This often put him in conflict with Obi-Wan and Anakin, leading to some rather harsh verbal disagreements, but ultimately, Alpha followed orders.

As both Alpha and Obi-Wan were captured by Ventress, they both eventually escaped, and Alpha was subsequently approached by the Kaminoans to serve as instructor for a new generation of Clone Commanders. Anakin suggested to Alpha that he give them individual names, and Alpha said he would consider doing so. He ultimately did, but on occasion his choice for names was more than a bit peculiar. One notable name he came up with was "Oddball", a name given to a Clone Pilot, who actually managed to get mentioned by this name in "Revenge of the Sith".

Whether Alpha participated in "Order 66" remains unknown. In the limited series "Obsession", Alpha was seen again, now wearing new, Episode III-model clone armor, notable for its different helmet design. Deployed with Obi-Wan, Anakin, and others, Alpha engaged in the furious battle with General Grievous and his droid forces.

In the course of the battle, Alpha was badly wounded and possibly crippled. Kit Fisto commented to Anakin that if Alpha's spine had been severed, he would never walk again. With his customary Jango-inspired attitude, Alpha insisted that they hand him a weapon as his hands still work just fine. Alpha did not perish in this battle, as Anakin later speaks to him briefly while he was being escorted away on a stretcher by Republic medics. There has been no further word on Alpha's fate.

Figurewise, Alpha is really nicely done. His ARC Trooper armor details, customarily grey on most ARC Troopers, have a slight bluish tinge to them, especially the tunic. This is in keeping with the character's appearance in the comic book, as his armor details seemed to have a bluish coloration to them. Of course, the basic figure is pretty much that of a standard Clone Trooper. As one might expect, it's all in the details. Along with the color details, there are sculpted ridges around the figure's boots, a very distinctive shoulder padding piece that very nicely reflects the look of the character in the comic book, what I am certain is a uniquely sculpted tunic that is a little more worn-looking and a little "wavier" than most, and a special device -- perhaps a commlink -- attached to his right wrist with a cable running to the shoulder padding.

The head, of course, is the standard Jango-clone head, and the figure has an Episode II style helmet, which is how this character is best known, and reflects the time period of the comic book accompanying the set. The figure is, of course, superbly articulated, as most of the Clone Troopers have been. About my only problem with it at all is the painted-on dirtying. Now, in fairness, the comic book adventure presented with this set is the Battle of Jabiim, and the planet was portrayed as a rain-soaked and notably muddy world. No one's going to stay clean here for long, certainly not on an open battlefield. This, however, is a decidedly minor point -- and probably a removeable one for those so inclined -- on an otherwise excellent addition to the ranks of the Clone Troopers in the Star Wars collection.

I really think Hasbro might be on to something pretty cool with these COMIC PACKS, as they're called, and while some of the Marvel-based ones might be a little weird, I suspect the Dark Horse ones will be especially impressive. I don't really know who else Hasbro has in mind to add to the collection, but I look forward to finding out.

Meanwhile, both of these sets, #05 and #07, definitely have my enthusiastic recommendation! I may have a few articulation gripes about Quinlan and Vilmarh, but they're still cool figures, and I have no complaints about Obi-Wan and especially Alpha! These sets are extremely cool and most welcome additions to any Star Wars collection!