There is an online store known as EntertainmentEarth, that is one of the many cool outlets for an action figure collector to make some very interesting additions to his collection. EE has garnered a considerable and generally positive reputation in the toy collecting community, enough to warrant offering quite a bit of exclusive merchandise in recent years.
One of EntertainmentEarth's Star Wars exclusive offering is unquestionably their most extensive and dramatic yet. Entitled REPUBLIC ELITE FORCES, this series of fourteen figures was broken down into two sets of seven (both of which had to be ordered), and included Republic Commandos, ARC Troopers, Clone Troopers, and a mess of Mandalorians.
I was thus faced with a dilemma regarding this set. It wasn't really in my budget, and while I was certainly interested in the ARC Trooper and Clone Troopers, and wouldn't've minded the Mandalorians, I honestly wasn't all that interested in the Republic Commandos, designated Omega Squad.
Let's get that bit of business out of the way right off. I don't dislike the Republic Commandos as a concept. In fact I think they're quite impressive and a cool idea. The Clone Commandos were first introduced in a video game called Star Wars: Republic Commando. It was a first-person shooter game that debuted in 2005, and was available for Windows and XBox. It can also work with XBox 360 with a downloadable patch.
Unfortunately, when Hasbro got around to making the first Republic Commando figure, a fellow named "Scorch", they pretty much shorted the figure in the articulation department. His legs are pre-posed and not at all articulated in the knees or ankles. With the likes of the Super-Articulated Clone Troopers running around, this was a major issue for me, and it's not something that Hasbro has dealt with. Any Republic Commandos that have turned up since, which have included an exclusive set as well as the Omega Squad members in THIS set, have all used the same set of molds.
In fairness, the Omega Squad Republic Commandos look very impressive. Unlike the more traditional white-uniformed Clone Troopers, which included the Commandos, Omega Squad is outfitted entirely in black. This makes them look both tough and dangerous. You wouldn't want to face this bunch on a battlefield. But I just couldn't get around the articulation limitation.
Now, you may be asking yourself -- Republic Commandos? Mandalorians? Omega Squad? I don't remember seeing any of this in the movies. Well, okay. You wouldn't. A lot of the material that's been turning up in the toy line lately, especially with regard to Clone Troopers and the like, didn't really make it into the core movies. It's either material that Hasbro has made up (and of course received LucasFilm's permission to produce), or that they have based on other source material, such as the comic books, novels, video games, and so forth.
Personally, I don't have a problem with this, especially as it pertains to material derived from the Clone Wars, which took place in the several year gap between Episodes II and III. We had an entire galaxy at war here. You're not really going to be able to show every aspect of that war in a couple of two-plus-hour movies. It's not even going to be easy to throw it all into an animated series. So if some stuff gets made up and worked into the overall concept, I'm not going to be the one to sit back and say, "Hey, that wasn't in the movie!" Especially given how much I enjoy collecting the Clone Troopers. I'm just going to do my best to obtain them.
But, as I said, with this set, I had a dilemma. It was outside of my price range, and I was not really interested in the entirety of it. If there had been some way to just get the Clone Troopers and ARC Troopers, and maybe a Mandalorian or two, I'd've been all over it. But there wasn't.
Let's consider the Mandalorians first.
The MANDALORIANS are something of an enigma in the Star Wars universe. We know them best through their two mercenary representatives, Jango Fett and Boba Fett. There's certainly no mistaking that helmet design.
According to Expanded Universe lore, they are the descend\ants of the Taung. The leader of the Mandalorians typically takes on the title of "Mandalore". The goal of the Mandalorians is to one day be united again in the Mandalore Sector.
Originally, the Mandalorian clans are led by the general "Mandalore the First" and are ranked among the best fighters in the galaxy, thriving on battle. They are known for their cutting-edge weaponry and strict code of honor. These Mandalorians wear crusader armor that differs from one soldier to the next.
Mandalore itself is a temperate, albeit desolate, world located in a rather overlooked and inconspicuous area at the edge of the Outer Rim. Making a living upon its surface takes on a battle of survival, and thus, the Mandalorians know no other way of succession. Most importantly, however, is the rare metal that is only found on this planet to date. It is called Mandalorian Iron or beskar in the Mandalorian language, but more commonly known as Manda-metal. It is one of the few known substances that can resist the focused energy output of a weapon such as a lightsaber.
After their defeat in the Mandalorian Wars at the hands of the Jedi Revan and Malak, Mandalorian society is slowly reformed, gradually evolving and changing into a culture of mercenaries, rather than conquerors.
Twenty-three years after the Battle of Yavin, Boba Fett became Mandalore and continues the tradition of leading the Mandalorian Protectors. During the Yuuzhan Vong War, Fett led the Mandalorians in the defense of Mandalore and liberates numerous planets like Tholatin and Gyndine. However, this came at a huge cost of the Mandalorians. The Yuuzhan Vong retaliated and attacked Mandalore and destroyed the capital city of Keldabe. Though the Vong are eventually defeated, the attack permanently scarred Mandalore and leaves over a million Mandalorians dead, nearly a third of the entire population of all Mandalorians galaxy-wide.
But let's turn back the clock a bit to the time of the Clone Wars. Jango Fett had basically hired himself to the Kaminoans to serve as the genetic host for the Grand Army of the Republic. It has been noted that Jango Fett personally supervised the training of many of the Clone Troopers, including the specialized training that produced more advanced troopers such as the ARC Troopers.
But one man cannot train an entire army, certainly not one the size of the Clone Army. What if -- Jango Fett had help? And here is where the concept behind the Republic Elite Forces set comes into play. As the copy on the back of both of the boxed sets reads: A secret army of Clone Troopers is being engineered from the genes of Jango Fett, a Mandalorian whose combat skills are exceptional even among the great Mandalorian warrior society. Special clones are created to command these soldiers, but they must be trained to become leaders. Fett seeks out the very best Mandalorian warriors from every corner of the galaxy. These sergeants will train the commandos to fight and lead, and instill in them the Mandalorian values of iron discipline and loyalty.
I sort of get the impression, just to make a cross-sci-fi comparison, that the Mandalorians are sort of like Star Trek's Klingons. They'd just as soon be left to their own devices, they're powerful and brutal warriors with their own code of honor, and you don't want to mess with them.
Between the two sets, there are six Mandalorians, four male and two female. All of them have Fett-like armor, but in entirely different color schemes. It's really quite fascinating. Boba Fett is certainly one of the most popular characters in the Star Wars universe, and to see more of his kind presented in figure form, sort of resembling him in basic appearance, and yet you know these are different individuals from the same culture, is really very cool.
The only one I don't have, is one of the females, RAV BRALOR. She is dressed in predominantly red armor, and the package copy describes her as follows: Rav is a sharpened battle instrument, attacking with surgical precision and stunning efficiency. Jango handpicks her to assist in the training of the clone commandos, where she hammers their independent natures into razor-edged power.
LLATS WARD - When EntertainmentEarth first announced their plans to produce this set, this was the first figure they showcased. Good choice, too. It immediately inspired a great deal of enthusiasm. Here was a character clearly Boba-esque in appearance, but the predominantly green armor with the yellow trim, not to mention that huge Mandalorian insignia, a strange sort of animal-looking skull, emblazoned on the chest, certainly designated this individual as someone other than Jango or Boba, and produced quite a bit of excitement.
The figure is clearly based on a Boba Fett figure, based on the appearance of the armor. The helmet is removable, as is the case for all of the Mandalorians, and the head is clearly not that of Jango/Boba. The body is very well articulated, pretty much to "Super-Articulated" levels. The figure is poseable at the head, arms, elbows, glove tops, waist, legs, knees, and ankles, with swivels as well as back and forth movement in most of the joints. This is an immensely cool figure.
The character profile for Llats Ward reads as follows: Everything in the life of Llats revolves around battle and war. He has studied and memorized the campaigns of all the great Mandalorian leaders of the past, and uses these as lessons to enhance the clone troopers' fighting skills.
B'ARIN APMA - Well, one thing can be said -- the helmets stay on these figures rather well. When I tried to pop the helmet off this figure to get a look at the head, the head came with it! Just because this figure uses a Jango Fett body mold, I see no reason for that level of irony (and if you don't get that joke, go watch the Battle of Geonosis in Star Wars Episode II and then come back and finish reading the review).
It's fairly easy to differentiate between Boba and Jango figures. Boba didn't have armor plating on his legs. Jango did, and so does B'arin here. It's not a bad figure choice. Unfortunately, I suspect that a Super-Articulated version of Jango doesn't exist, or wasn't available for use in this set, because there are a few shortcomings. Fortunately, they're very minimal. The arms are somewhat preposed and a bit more limited in articulation, and the legs are posed a bit outward. However, the legs do have a full range of motion (unlike the Clone Commandos, who sometimes have a bit of trouble even standing up), and the figure also has good articulation in the waist and the head. I rather wish the arms were more poseable, but I don't regard this as serious as poor leg articulation.
B'arin Apma's uniform is mostly grey, a sort of matte dark grey for the fabric, and a dark metallic grey for the armor. His helmet is several shades of grey with black trim. And he has the fancy jetpack that both Jango and Boba used.
B'arin Apma's profile reads as follows: Brotherhood, stamina, loyalty. These are the three pillars upon which B'Arin Apma rests his entire life. These are also the three main tenets that he drills into the clone troopers he trains - as essential to a superior soldier as marksmanship and courage.
These two Mandalorians, along with Rav Bralor, were sold with the Commando Omega Squad. Let's turn now to the Mandalorians from the other half of this set, the boxed set which also features the ARC Troopers and Clone Troopers.
Let me say one thing on behalf of the packaging. Along with presenting a very nice package design, again with the Mandalorian insignia emblazoned along one side in red metallic, there is a very appreciated lack of those blasted plastic-coated wire twist-ties. The figure in each set are posed against a nice backdrop, and are attached to little clear plastic standups in the box by way of a couple of clear rubber bands. Much easier to deal with.
DRED PRIEST - Here's another figure that uses the Super-Articulated Boba Fett mold. However, it also has the jet pack. Llats Ward, interestingly, did not have the jet pack, but instead was wearing a version of the rather raggedy cape that Boba Fett has often some with.
Dred Priest is a particularly striking Mandalorian, outfitted in armor that is predominantly red, with brown trim around the visor, and a dark grey uniform under the armor. No one would see this as either Jango or Boba, but they would certainly see it as someone dangerous and not to be trifled with. If that didn't do it, then the big blaster rifle he comes with certainly would.
Dred Priest's profile reads as follows: Dred relishes the challenge of creation elite soldiers. Chosen by Jango to be a training sergeant on Kamino, he forms a secret battle circle among his fellow sergeants, in which they "practice" their training techniques in brutal competitions.
ISABET REAU - There's certainly never been any reason to assume that there wouldn't be female Mandalorians -- this is just the first time we've had figures of them. Which also makes this set of molds entirely new! Not bad for an exclusive set. I am sure that this same set of molds was used for Rav Bralor, allowing Hasbro to get two uses out of the molds, but so what? It's still impressive.
The figure is very nicely designed, and looks entirely like a Mandalorian in the overall look of the armor. Isabet's armor is a golden tan in color, with yellow trim around the visor, and across the front of the top of the helmet. The helmet is removeable, and there are two braids of hair sticking out from the helmet. Isabet is also wearing a jet pack.
The figure has the full range of "Super-Articulated" poseability, including the head, arms, elbows, wrists (glove tops), waist, legs, knees, and ankles. Every Star Wars figure -- at least the humanoids -- should be made like this these days. Overall, this is an extremely impressive figure.
Isabet Reau's profile reads as follows: Isabet is eager to train the clones in the ways of her people, from their battle tactics to their cultural beliefs, so that the greatness of the Mandalorian people will once again sweep across the galaxy with all its power and glory.
MIJ GILAMAR - This particular Mandalorian almost looks a little subdued because of the color of his armor. It's a light tan with brown trim. However, that might just make him more suitable for desert combat. It's certainly a different color scheme than any of the others, or for that matter Jango or Boba. So it looks pretty cool.
The figure uses the Jango molds, the same ones as B'arin Apma, so there is somewhat limited articulation in the arms, but overall, I can't complain about the figure. The rest of him is articulated just fine, and he certainly looks impressive. He's also wearing a jet pack.
Mij Gilamar's profile reads as follows: Mij is one of the Mandalorians chosen to train the clones on Kamino. He is a natural leader and a skilled warrior who can instill in the clones an unyielding commitment to protect the ideals to which they have sworn their allegiance.
I find myself wondering if even the Mandalorians knew about Order 66...
By the way, before we move along to the ARC Troopers and Clone Troopers, I feel I should say this -- any resemblance between the under-the-helmet likenesses, or moderately reworked versions of the character names, of these Mandalorians and certain Hasbro personnel that have worked on the Star Wars line of action figures, is entirely coincidental. :)
ARC TROOPERS - You know, I have no problem with Clone Troopers of any sort that are predominantly dressed in white. There's no question that they're formidable soldiers. But brother, slap any of these Clones in black armor and they'll really scare the heck out of you. Must be the Vader effect.
ARC Troopers got their start during the Clone Wars, and were a fairly frequent presence in the Animated Series. There were figures of them quite early on. ARC stands for "Advanced Reconnaissance Commandos". They were specifically trained by Jango Fett (or, arguably, other Mandalorians), and did not have their thought processes altered in the way the average Clone Trooper was to make them more obedient to direct orders. ARC Troopers are more capable of independent thought and strategy. As such, they represent an elite segment of the Clone Army, but they're also kept in reserve for special missions where their specific skills and capabilities are needed.
I'll admit, I tend to prefer the Episode III style Clone Trooper helmet to the Episode II, which is also the helmet style of the ARC Troopers, but at the same time, these particular ARC Troopers would look good regardless of helmet type. There are two of these ARC Troopers in the set, and they look highly dangerous. The black armor is complemented by a red waist tunic and red trim on their shoulder padding. The end result is something incredibly fierce-looking. The only real additional color on them is some silver insignia trim on their helmets.
It is worth noting, however, that despite the fact that the helmets are black and so are the visors on the helmets, Hasbro DID paint the visors. In a good light, they appear to be more glossy than the helmets.
They are VERY highly-articulated. I was a little concerned when I saw the package illustration and it showed the two ARC Troopers standing in the same basic position, seemingly acting as guards, with bent elbows. And when you mold a figure in black, sometimes it's a little hard to see the articulation points. I am happy to report that these two ARC Troopers have a full range of motion, certainly at the Super-Articulated level, and are poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, and ankles, with an excellent range of motion at all points.
In other words, these are two incredible cool ARC Troopers. Their profile on the package reads as follows: These elite troopers receive the same training as all clone troopers, then get specialized instruction from Jango Fett himself. Although genetically engineered, ARC troopers retain Fett's independent and daring nature for their leadership roles.
And with that black armor, you can tell right off these aren't guys that you want to mess with.
CLONE TROOPERS - The backbone of the Grand Army of the Republic. Genetically engineered from Jango Fett, cloned in the hundreds of thousands (at least) by the Kaminoans, and trained in a wide range of military disciplines, the Clone Troopers fought on behalf of the Republic side by side with their Jedi Generals -- right up to the point where Order 66 was issued. But that's a story for another time.
Over the course of the Clone Wars, the Clone Troopers were obviously broken down into different divisions, brigades, platoons, legions, whatever else, and generally denoted this by marking their armor in different colors and patterns. The 501's Legion used a blue pattern on their uniform. The group assigned to Mace Windu ended up with purple -- like that's a big surprise. The elite Shock Troopers had an extensive pattern of red on their uniforms, even though the uniforms themselves tended to be pretty much identical.
So what are you going to say about Clone Troopers who have that freaky Mandalorian skull emblem emblazoned large on their chestplates? You KNOW that's pretty much a boast, but you also know darn well that they wouldn't HAVE that Mandalorian insignia on their armor if they hadn't really earned the right to wear it.
These two Clone Troopers that come with this set are very nicely done. They're Super-Articulated Episode III style Clone Troopers, fully poseable, and that Mandalorian emblem is -- well, frankly pretty intimidating, even on white armor.
About the only cautionary note I'd make, and I make it on every Clone Trooper that comes with this, is that if you don't want to lose that little antenna attachment in the back, get a bit of glue and make sure it's firmly in place. Otherwise it'll be vacuum cleaner bait for sure.
That side, these are really a couple of excellent Clone Troopers. Superbly articulated, neatly painted, the Mandalorian emblem really makes them look "elite", they're otherwise nice and clean. No complaints at all and definitely a highlight of this special collection.
The profile for the Clone Troopers reads as follows: They are grown and engineered to be super soldiers, exceptionally obedient, reliable, and strong. After learning military skills through holographic flash training and life-fire exercises,. they have become the perfect combat weapons.
I don't know, I think that holographic flash training would be more laughs than the live-fire exercises.
On the whole, this latest set of exclusives from Entertainment Earth is truly spectacular. I can't even really knock the Omega Squad Commandos that much. I'm just a nitpicker about articulation and pre-posing. Certainly the Commandos have, as a concept, proven to be a popular branch of the Clone Army among the legions of Star Wars fans out there.
I'm pleased with the portion of the set that I have, of course, and
particularly grateful to the person online who was willing to make the
deal with me for them. But I would also certainly give the ENTIRE Entertainment
Earth Exclusive STAR WARS REPUBLIC ELITE FORCES Set my highest and most
enthusiastic recommendation. Any Star Wars action figure fan will want