REVIEW: STAR WARS THE CLONE WARS BARC SPEEDER BIKE with CLONE TROOPER JESSE
With all of the various Clone Troopers, both trooper types and individuals, available today in the Star Wars Clone Wars line, based on the superb television series airing on Cartoon Network, it takes a vigilant eye to catch a new Clone Trooper on the shelves.
I mean, sure, there are Web Sites where you can call up lists of upcoming product, but it's been my experience that, with regard to just about any toy line that puts in a retail appearance, the difference in time between when that toy is announced and/or is given an expected date of release, and when you'll actually see it in stores, tends to be, to put it mildly, highly variable.
Recently, I saw a new vehicle and trooper combo. The vehicle wasn't necessarily new. The BARC Speeder has been released, in a couple of color patterns, previously. But the Clone Trooper, by the name of Jesse, was new. And as it turned out, this wasn't the easiest item to latch on to. I saw it at Walmart one day, but was doing some grocery shopping and decided to wait until my next visit to get it. On my next visit, it was gone.
Then I saw it at Toys "R" Us, but I didn't really have the money for it that day, so I figured the next time I did, I'd get it. By the time I did, it was gone. At this point, color me officially annoyed.
I almost thought about mail-ordering it, but I really don't like to do that if I can help it. Nothing against any of the mail-order Web Sites that specialize in toys. The ones I've dealt with do a great job. I just prefer to see a toy in person before I buy it, whenever possible.
So I was back at Walmart and finally grabbed Jesse and his BARC Speeder. It seems that this particular vehicle/figure combo is almost as popular as the ever-elusive Mandalorian Speeder with its exclusive Mandalorian Warrior figure. If you see it -- get it -- immediately.
Let's consider the vehicle and the figure individually, starting with the BARC Speeder. As ever, when it comes to checking into the backgrounds and backstories of all things Star Wars, I rely on the highly useful Web Site known as "Wookieepedia" for proper information.
The Biker Advanced Recon Commando (BARC) speeder was a powerful speeder bike model used by the Grand Army of the Republic as a reconnaissance craft during the Clone Wars. It was manufactured by Aratech Repulsor Company. A civilian variant, Police BARC speeder also saw extensive use on Coruscant.
Younger than the 74-Z speeder bike employed at the Second Battle of Dorin, it was actually more closely designed after the Ripper speeder bike manufactured by Aratech's competitor, Mobquet.
Originally designed for exclusive use by the Advanced Recon Commandos, the vehicle proved so effective that it came to be used by the rest of the army. These speeders were painted in the red-and-white colors of the Galactic Republic.
They were powered by repulsors and a turbine engine mounted on the frontal prong. The speeder was controlled via twin steering vanes atop the bike, and pedals fitted below. Two blaster cannons protruded from the bottom of the forward prong, while two more were fixed on either side of the vehicle's rear.
The speeders were capable of flying at high altitudes and were sometimes used as escorts for LAAT/i gunships carrying important passengers.
Around the second year of the Clone Wars, a variant of the BARC speeder was used by Coruscant police droids. The only apparent differences from its military counterpart was that it had a dark blue/gray paint job and had flashing red and blue lights near the aft thrusters and stern thruster. Jedi Master Tera Sinube and Jedi Padawan Ahsoka Tano rode a police droid's BARC speeder to a train station to catch Ione Marcy and Cassie Cryar, following the signal of a homing beacon placed on Marcy's back by Sinube. Another time when police droids rode these was when it appeared that Satine Kryze had murdered Davu Golec, and these were used to follow a civilian airspeeder, which the clone shock troopers thought she was escaping in.
Jedi Master Shaak Ti once flew a BARC speeder during the initial stages of the Battle of Coruscant, using it to transport her and Stass Allie to the Supreme Chancellor's residence to see Palpatine to safety.
During a mission to capture Shu Mai, Presidente of the Commerce Guild on Felucia, Aayla Secura and Clone Commander Bly were assisted in the assault on the Presidente's headquarters by a squad of 327th Star Corps troopers riding BARC speeders. Aided by ARC-170 starfighters, these elite biker troops defeated Vulture droid starfighters during the battle.
Troops under the command of Jedi Generals Yoda, Luminara Unduli, and Quinlan Vos later rode their speeders into combat on Kashyyyk, moving alongside Infantry Support Platforms and A6 Juggernauts.
Following the war, BARC speeders continued to be used by the early Galactic Empire, although they were seemingly phased out afterward, and replaced with the older 74-Zs for military use.
On Kashyyyk, many speeders were left behind, following the formation of the Empire, and were used during the Galactic Civil War by native Wookiees and visiting pilots. Some others, also obtained from Kashyyyk, came into the hands of some spacers for personal use.
So, how's the toy? Honestly, it was something of a surprise. I expected a repainted version of the existing BARC Speeder -- not that I had any problem with this. I have a few other BARC Speeders in my collection, and they're cool vehicles. I honestly like them a little better than the classic Speeder Bikes from Return of the Jedi. The BARC Speeder seems a bit sturdier, somehow.
The BARC Speeder was packaged in its window box with the top of the bike facing outwards, towards the customer, as it were, so I wasn't able to see the main difference. Once I got the BARC Speeder out of the package, however, the difference was abundantly clear.
Prior to this, all the BARC Speeders I have owned have small landing gear that lowers, and that's about the extent of their moving parts. Any movement that they are capable of making is strictly up to the imagination, likely that of a child during some play time.
Jesse's BARC Speeder -- has WHEELS! And granted, this does make it a distinctly newer model. The previous BARC Speeder has a copyright date of 2005 on it, since they first appeared in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The new wheeled BARC Speeder has a copyright date of 2010.
Admittedly, the wheels cost the BARC Speeder a little bit of its accuracy. Within the Star Wars Universe, the BARC Speeder did not use wheels. But, what the heck, neither did Luke Skywalker's Landspeeder, and that never hurt the wheeled toy of that vehicle any, so why not?
The only other noticeable difference between the 2005 BARC Speeder and the 2010 BARC Speeder is that a long "neck" comprising the front of the vehicle, which appeared to be mostly a framework with a bar over the top of it, on the 2005 BARC Speeder, has now been enclosed on the 2010 model. Interestingly, this section isn't anywhere near either of the two wheels that the vehicle uses, so it must have been done largely for cosmetic reasons. Honestly, it's a bit of an improvement. It makes the BARC Speeder look a little sturdier.
Apart from this, the two BARC Speeder types look to be nearly identical. Length is about 10-1/2", making this a decent-sized vehicle in a 4" line. The BARC Speeder has what looks like a jet at the front end, with two narrow stabilizer wings, accompanied by a couple of blasters. This is followed by a fairly long "neck", leading to the rider's seat and controls, which consist of handlebars, and foot rests. Directly behind the seat is the widest part of the BARC Speeder, which has two wing-like extensions with what appear to be additional jets, each with blaster rifles mounted atop. The comparatively bulky rear section gradually tapers off to a curved near-point in the rear.
The new model Speeder Bike has a huge black wheel in the back, and a smaller black wheel in the front. This results in a BARC Speeder that rolls at a slight downward angle, but it's really not all that bad. The design of the bike, and the fact that the wheels are black against an otherwise mostly light-colored vehicle, do a good job of concealing the wheels as much as possible. The vehicle rolls along very capably along any smooth surface, and the rear wheel is wide enough to allow the vehicle to remain upright when it is in motion, or just standing. The front wheel, although not especially wide in and of itself, provides an additional necessary point of stability.
Jesse's BARC Speeder is mostly light gray, with some blue trim near the front, and more towards the rear, in a pattern that is angular in some areas, curved in others. The sides of the rear wings have an emblem on them, that at first glance look like a strange sort of letter "X", but upon closer inspection are revealed to be silhouettes of crossed blaster rifles.
Some of the additional structural details, including the handlebars, footrests, and attached blasters, are silver gray or dark gray. Overall, the end result is a very impressive BARC Speeder with a cool new feature with the wheels! I wonder if that's one of the reasons this particular item has become as seemingly popular as it has.
Now let's consider the Clone Trooper, who goes by the name of Jesse. Here is what Wookieepedia has to say about him.
Jesse was the nickname of a clone trooper who served the Galactic Republic during the Clone Wars. Like all clone troopers, Jesse was a clone of the Mandalorian bounty hunter Jango Fett.
Around 21 BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin) during the Clone Wars, Jesse served the Galactic Republic under the command of High Jedi General Obi-Wan Kenobi. After a battle above the planet Saleucami, Confederate General Grievous used an escape pod to jettison from his starship and landed on Saleucami's surface. Chasing after Grievous, Kenobi gathered a team of clone troopers, including Jesse, to find the cyborg general on the planet's surface.
The team found the wreckage of a crashed ship, and Commander Cody told Kenobi that the ship had crashed recently. Kenobi decided to split the group into two teams and ordered Captain Rex to find the other missing escape pods with troopers Jesse, Kix and Hardcase, while he, Cody, and Crys stayed behind to go through the remains of the crashed ship.
After mounting separate BARC speeders, the team drove through the wetlands of the planet's surface. Ahead of them, two commando droids were on top of a hill overlooking the clones. Utilizing a blaster sniper rifle, one of the droids shot Rex, knocking the clone captain off his speeder. Jesse ordered Kix and Hardcase to turn their BARCs around and protect the captain, while he drove toward the hill from where the shot had been fired. Jesse used his BARC speeder's blaster cannons to fire at the droids, destroying them. Returning to Rex, the team's medic, Kix, informed Jesse that Rex's injury was severe. Jesse told the team that the two droid commandos might have called for backup, and they needed to find shelter for Rex. After noticing domesticated eopies, Jesse concluded that they were on farmland, which meant there was a nearby homestead. Kix attached a flatbed on a side of his BARC speeder and laid Rex on top of it before Jesse and the team drove off to find the farmer's homestead.
Upon arriving at the nearby homestead, a female Twi'lek, Suu, greeted the clones warily, pointing a rifle at the intruders. Jesse and Kix informed her that they were friends and they needed a place to settle the injured Rex for the night, and Suu gave the clones permission to use the barn. After Kix placed a bacta patch on Rex's wound, he regained consciousness and Jesse and the other troopers informed him of what had occurred. Before the team left to continue their search for the escape pods, Rex gave Jesse the responsibility of leading the search party. After the clones boarded their BARC speeders, Kenobi contacted the group via comlink and called for Rex. Jesse responded and informed the Jedi Master that Rex had been injured, and that the had given him the duty of leading the search for the escape pods. Kenobi told Jesse that Grievous was heading for an abandoned escape pod, and ordered the troopers to drive westward.
Soon, Jesse contacted Kenobi, and the clone trooper told him that he had a visual of the escape pod. Grievous was the first to arrive at the escape pod, and Kenobi had already engaged Grievous' forces by the time Jesse's team arrived on their BARC speeders. As Jesse fired his speeder's blaster cannons at Grievous' battle droids, he spotted an approaching Confederate shuttle in the sky and warned Kenobi via comlink. After a clone trooper on board an AT-TE walker told Kenobi that the walker's guns were overheated, Kenobi ordered Cody and Jesse to cover him as he raced toward Grievous. Kenobi and Grievous engaged in a lightsaber duel as the Confederate shuttle approached them, eventually coming to a hovering stop above the escape pod; Grievous fired his tow cable on the hull of the shuttle and fled in the vehicle. Jesse and Cody, on board their speeders, returned to Kenobi after dispatching the remaining battle droids. The Jedi Master told both clone troopers to contact the fleet and order them to send a transport to pick them up.
As to his basic personality, Jesse was well-mannered; he respected Suu and asked if Rex could stay at her homestead for the night. Jesse cooperated with Kenobi, and obeyed the orders that were given to him. On his forehead, Jesse had a large Galactic Republic emblem tattoo that covered most of his face. His helmet featured a similar marking. Jesse's clone armor sported light blue markings.
So, how's the figure? Not bad at all, really. Jesse does not have a removable helmet. Rather, the helmet is the figure's head. This is probably just as well for two reasons -- despite differing hair styles and colors, and occasional facial hair or tattoo markings that have cropped up over the course of the Clone Wars, most of the Clone Troopers all still look pretty much alike. And frankly, one with the emblem of the Galactic Republic spread across his face is pushing it a bit. It might have been a bit much even for Hasbro to pull off toy-wise. If you want to know what he looked like, and didn't see the Clone Wars episodes he was in, there's a picture of Jesse, sans helmet, in his Wookieepedia entry.
The helmet was doubtless a good bit easier to imprint the emblem on, since the forehead of the helmet, although curved, was also smooth. Jesse's Clone Trooper armor is the same standard armor worn by most otherwise non-specialized Clone Troopers, but as the Clone Wars series has revealed, there was a lot of customization, both for various units and even individuals, over the course of the Clone Wars.
In Jesse's case, most of his armor is the standard white. The Galactic Republic emblem is imprinted in black. Jesse also has blue trim around the visor of his helmet, a vertical stripe down the front, and the fronts of his boots. The shade of blue used is interesting. It is a slightly lighter, and moderately "cooler" shade of blue than one usually sees used on Clone Trooper armor, such as that of the 501st Legion, for example.
For a little additional color, Jesse's shoulder armor is a dark grey, almost but not quite a blue grey, outlined in white.
Any criticisms? Just two. The figure uses a set of body molds that -- is not exactly my personal favorite. It's a somewhat more "rigid", for lack of a better term, set of body molds than some. The elbows and knees have a more "ratcheting" articulation to them, and there are indentations in the upper arms and upper legs into which notches on the knee and elbow pads fit. This tends to make the figure look more like he's "standing at attention" than some.
Additionally, these molds eliminate the ankle articulation, and swap out the mid-torso articulation for waist articulation. While normally I prefer waist articulation over mid-torso, or would prefer both if it is workable, the Clone Troopers fit into that small category of figures that can get away with the mid-torso articulation and look good doing it, and this alternate set of body molds is pretty much proof that it's the preferable way to go.
I don't want to malign Jesse's articulation too much. The lack of ankle articulation is unfortunate, but Jesse is otherwise fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, and knees. The elbows and knees also feature a rotational swivel. The legs actually have slightly more articulation than the other set of molds, and perhaps this might be the reason they were closed for a Clone Trooper accompanying a Speeder Bike where the trooper has to be seated. Nevertheless, I still maintain that the other main set of Clone Trooper body molds is superior in function and appearance.
The only other slight glitch, and it's very minor, is that it seems that the "slot" in Jesse's upper arm, for the insertion of the shoulder articulation mechanism, may have somehow been slightly mis-cut. This is purely speculation on my part, as I really don't know what the assembly of these figures entails. But it really does look as though Jesse's left arm swings very slightly forward, especially if one checks the alignment of the shoulder armor, and that there's a little more room on the back of his arm than on the front.
I had something similar happen to my DC Universe Classics Booster Gold figure. Granted, that's an entirely different figure from a completely different company, but the nature of the apparent glitch is similar. However, I don't want to criticize it too heavily. Jesse doesn't look bad at all, the arm still moves properly, I don't really know what might have happened here, and I'm probably over-reacting. Nevertheless, I don't want to leave it unmentioned, since I am reasonably certain that something is just a little "off" here, and that comes down to a quality control issue that should be addressed so it does not recur.
Jesse's paintwork is, overall, excellent. I don't see any real signs that make me think any of the detailing was done by hand. This has been an occasional issue on Clone Troopers, especially with regard to the black "undersuit" details, but I see no indication of it here. The blue detailing, emblem, and other paint work is all very nicely done.
Along with the BARC Speeder, Jesse also comes with a good-sized rifle, as well as a display stand, and a card and a plastic die to allow him to participate in the Galactic Battle Game. Additionally, the interior of the package can be transformed into a diorama setting for display purposes.
So, what's my final word here? I'm impressed. The BARC Speeder is certainly more distinctive than I expected, with the new wheels underneath, and Jesse is an impressive new individual Clone Trooper character, currently not available anywhere else, with a good history within the animated series, as you have read. I can certainly understand why this would be a popular set. If you're a fan of Star Wars, especially the Clone Wars series, you're sure to enjoy adding this figure-and-vehicle set to your collection.
The STAR WARS CLONE WARS BARC SPEEDER with CLONE TROOPER JESSE set definitely has my most enthusiastic recommendation!