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REVIEW:
STAR WARS SAGA COLLECTION - LUKE, HAN, and DARTH VADER
By Thomas Wheeler



Over the course of the modern Star Wars action figure line, which commenced in 1995, there have been quite a few versions of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Darth Vader. Frankly, there's been quite a few versions of quite a lot of the core characters, but let's focus on these three for now.

When the Star Wars action figure line was brought back in 1995, the earliest versions of Luke, Han, and to a fair degree, Vader, were -- interesting. They were rather bulked up individuals that only bore a superficial resemblance to their cinematic counterparts. The reasoning at the time, if I recall, was that the toy company didn't (yet) have the rights to precisely reproduce the movie likenesses of these characters, so they based their sculpts more closely on images derived from Dark Horse Comics' line of Star Wars books, which were, inevitably, somewhat exaggerated in appearance.

Frankly, the early Han and Luke weren't that bad -- for what they were. But if one action figure line has, over the course of its eleven years of existence, undergone a rather astounding level of evolution, mostly for the better, it has certainly been Star Wars. The detail has gotten better, certainly the articulation has been upgraded, and the likenesses have gotten better.

Still, I was extremely reluctant to buy another Luke, or Han, or Vader. Technically speaking, I already had those characters -- even if the main versions I had of them looked like they were wearing football padding under their shirts after working out on the Nautilus equipment in the back room of the Mos Eisley Cantina.

Besides, I'd been concentrating on the prequel toys for the past seven years. I was more concerned about getting Anakin than Luke, Obi-Wan than Han, and Maul more than Vader.

And even with all six movies now completed, and the toy line taking a new direction to giving pretty much equal attention to characters from all six movies, as well as the Clone Wars concept and other "Expanded Universe" realms, I was still more interested in the unusual stuff. I'd rather spend my money on a cool alien, droid, or trooper, than on a new version of a figure I already had.

Still, perhaps there was a point to be made here. Between the increased detail and the more plausible proportions, maybe those early versions of Luke, Han, and Vader did need to be rotated out for something that was more in keeping with current articulation and appearances. And there were new versions of all three characters available in the current collection, dressed pretty much in their most classic appearances. This was not a difficult thing for Vader, but Han and Luke underwent a fair number of wardrobe changes over the years, and if I was going to replace them, I wanted figures that looked as much like their original, "first movie" versions as possible. So, let's consider the most recent versions of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Darth Vader:

LUKE SKYWALKER

This apparently isn't such a new version. When I got the figure out of his package, the copyright date on the bottom of his foot read "1999". On the other hand, that's long ago enough so that this particular Luke figure hasn't likely been seen in some time, and it's certainly a better articulated and more agreeably proportioned version of Tatooine's best known farmboy Jedi than the earliest editions.

Luke is dressed in his first-movie Tatooine attire here - the white tunic and trousers, and the tan boots. He's also wearing a fabric shawl, which barely turned up in the movie, and the infamous, "Hey, look, I'm Gilligan!" hat from one particular scene that was excised from the film. Fortunately, both the shawl AND the cap are removable. That was one thing I really checked on this Luke figure before I bought it -- any trace of glue residue around the cap. I saw more than one Luke on the shelves at the time, the position of their caps were somewhat different, and I didn't see any glue on either one.

One nice thing about a figure dating back to 1999 -- this was before Hasbro and their toys were the victims of hand-painted detailing, so all of Luke's paint applications, not that there are many of them, are all neatly painted through proper stencils.

The only thing that sort of bothers me about this figure, and it's not that big a deal, is the headsculpt. Now, this is Luke before he got involved with the Rebellion, before he found out Darth Vader was his father, before he was trained by a Muppet, before he became a Jedi. He'd lived a pretty sheltered existince on Tatooine.

Age-wise, however, Luke was, if we follow the timeline of the movies as they exist now, in his very late teens. Granted he didn't act like it. He pretty much acted like a brat, although that could have been a combination of what had to be the crashing boredom of his life on a moisture farm with a fair bit of that infamous Skywalker temper thrown in.

But the headsculpt to this figure looks about 14, tops. It's almost too young. Strangely, the headsculpt looks a lot better with the cap OFF, and it's not even because the cap looks so silly in the first place. With the cap on, Luke's head looks proportionately larger than it should, which makes the entire figure look younger. With the cap off, it's really not that bad at all, and certainly the paint detailing is done very well. I don't care what toy line you're talking about, painting eyes that small and that well detailed can't be easy.

Luke's articulation isn;t bad, even if it isn't quite up to 2006 standards. Luke is poseable at the head, arms, swivel elbows, waist, legs, and knees. He is slightly pre-posed but not severely.

His accessories, along with the hat and shawl, include the ornate box in which Obi-Wan Kenobi kept his father's lightsaber. A portion of this lightsaber is removable. Luke also comes with his fancy hi-tech binoculars. These can be stashed in the box. The box's lid does not like to stay in place very well, however. I recommend a small rubber band. The hat, unfortunately, will not quite fit in the box. So much for "out of sight, out of mind".

Luke also comes with a display base, as all current Star Wars action figrues, do, and they're really very nice bases. Luke is #036 in the current Star Wars Saga Collection, and if you've never updated your Luke Skywalker figure, and want one of Luke from his first appearance, this is a good one to go with.

HAN SOLO

As with Luke, this Han Solo figure dates back to 1999, but again, this particular version of Han Solo has probably been off the market so long that a lot of people have missed it.

Curiously, the headsculpt for this figure almost looks too old, compared to Luke's almost too young. Now, it's really an excellent likeness of actor Harrison Ford. But I think the sculptors based the sculpt on too recent an image of Ford. The face is almost too -- craggy, for lack of a better term, for its own good, certainly compared to Han Solo's first appearance in the Star Wars movies. Don't get me wrong, it's an excellent overall figure and a good likeness. It's just a likeness that has a little more wear and tear on it than Ford had in the first movie.

The figure's only accessory is a blaster pistol which I recommend putting into the holster on the leg IMMEDIATELY. Not so he can shoot Greedo, but because this blaster is a very small accessory, it fits very snugly into the holster, and if you don't put it in there, the chances of this accessory becoming vacuum cleaner bait are pretty high.

As with Luke, the figure is well articulated, but not quite up to most 2006 levels. Han is poseable at the head, arms, left elbow, waist, legs, left upper leg swivel, and knees. It's a pretty weird articulation layout in some respects. His left arm is very weird, bent at the elbow, and his hand is positioned to make it look like he wants to hail a taxi or something.

Painting is very neatly done, including a stripe up the left leg of his trousers, and some evidence of it on the right. As I said with Luke, one distinct advantage to using these older figures is a complete set of paint stencil masks.

Han's vest is clearly a separately molded and assembled piece, but the way the arms are positioned on this figure, I doubt very much that it's removable, and I do not recommend doing so. I suspect the result would be broken plastic.

I probably wouldn't recommend this figure quite as highly as the Luke Skywalker, but on the whole, it's a very decent version of Han Solo, and certainly better detailed and more evenly proportioned than the first version from 1995. And I'm honestly not sure if there are even other classic versions of this Han Solo available. The line has been running so long that it tends to blur after a while. This may be the best "First Appearance Han Solo", for lack of a better term, that's out there. He is #035 in the current Star Wars Saga Collection

DARTH VADER

This figure is more recent than Han or Luke. He has a 2005 copyright date on his foot, and it's really a good figure of the popular character, even if it is a bit of a pain to get him out of his package because of the large fabric cape.

May I make a suggestion to the package designers at Hasbro? Stop designing packaging where a figure's arm or leg is stuffed THROUGH an internal packaging bubble. I've seen this on Star Wars and Sigma Six. It not only makes it very difficult to remove the figure, but if the figure isn't situated quite properly, it can acrually warp the figure. Darth here has a sort of weird leg.

This is, however, an excellent figure of Darth Vader. He has two fabric pieces -- his main large cape, which even has a small silver cord across the neck, and the smaller cape that hangs from his waist. The overall detailing is excellent, and fortunately, not a lot of paint detailing was needed -- really just on the belt and chestplate -- and was so intricate that it had to be done with stencils, so it looks good.

This Darth Vader does have a removable helmet, which shows the scarred back of his head. The faceplate, thankfully, is not removable, but the helmet doesn't like to stay put all that well. This is nothing that cannot be remedied with a couple of drops of glue.

Darth Vader comes with his well-known red lightsaber, and is, since he comes from a more recent time, better articulated than either Han or Luke. He's poseable at the head, arms, diagonal-cut elbows, wrists (glove tops), waist, legs, and knees, which swivel as well as move back.

Height-wise, he appropriately towers over Han and Luke at about 4-1/8" in height, and in my opinion may be the best 3-3/4" scale Darth Vader that's been made. Technically his package lists him as being from "Empire Strikes Back", and the photo illustration behind him shows Snowtroopers, but let's face it, if there's one guy that didn't undergo any wardrobe changes to speak of during the classic trilogy, it was Vader.

(The corner labels for Han and Luke definitely indicate them as being from Episode IV: "A New Hope".)

I definitely recommend this Darth Vader figure (he's #013 in the current Saga Collection), and really, all three of these figures are excellent, particularly if you, like me, only ever picked up the first modern versions of these characters, and realize that, yeah, maybe something that fits a little bit better with the current crop of figures does need to be brought into the collection. As such, I recommend all of these figures for any STAR WARS action figure fan!