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REVIEW:
STAR WARS VOTC/SAGA COLLECTION IG-88, BOSSK, SNOWTROOPER, and BESPIN LUKE
By Thomas Wheeler


There is a particular branch of Star Wars action figures that is known to most collectors as the "Vintage Original Trilogy Collection". These figures are known for being packaged on cards whose fronts were good duplicates of the original Vintage packaging of the original toy from the 1970's-1980's line -- right down to the Kenner logo. Of course the figure was updated considerably, and the entire works was packaged inside a protective plastic "clamshell".

There are six new figures in series 2, including: IG-88, Bossk, an Imperial Snowtrooper, Luke Skywalker in Bespin Fatigues, Han Solo in Hoth Gear, and Princess Leia in Combat Poncho. Of these six, five of them are from Empire Strikes Back. The sixth, pricess Leia, is wearing her outfit from Endor, from Return of the Jedi.

Of the six, I was particularly interested in IG-88, Bossk, Bespin Luke, and the Snowtrooper. Let's consider them individually, shall we?

BOSSK - Bossk is one of the bounty hunters hired by Darth Vader in Empire Strikes Back to track down the Millennium Falcon and capture Han Solo. About the only line he had was to snarl at an Imperial Officer, but the bounty hunters have proved to be such a popular crew of motley renegades, that literal volumes have been written about them since that time, and Bossk is one of the more prominent of the lot.

Bossk is a Trandoshan, a reptilian humanoid species. They all tend to be a pretty vicious lot, apparently, and they have a species-wide hatred for and distate towards Wookiees. One of the more unusual physical aspects of Trandoshans are their unusual, three-clawed hands, which appear to consist of a single large finger and two small thumbs on each hand. While these hands, on rather long arms, are excellent for fighting, they lack a certain dexterity.

Trandoshans were ready allies of the Empire, and when the newly-formed Empire conquered the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk, Trandoshans were on hand to help round up strays. The Empire allowed the Trandoshans to keep Wookiees for slave labor. The more dextrous hands of Wookiees were considered an advantage to the Trandoshans for a variety of manual labor tasks.

According to "The Star Wars Essential Guide to Alien Species", Trandoshans can see into the infra-red range with their super-sensitive eyes. They are cold-blooded, like most reptiles, and shed their skin each year. They can also, like many reptilian species, regenerate limbs, at least until they're in middle age.

Like most Trandoshans, Bossk detests Wookiees, but he has a special hatred for Chewbacca. He and Han Solo have humiliated Bossk so many times that the bounty hunter became determined to have revenge. He would ultimately be denied this following the tragic death of Chewbacca, but Bossk managed to get a later cheap shot in on Han Solo. In a novel that took place after the death of Han Solo'd longtime friend, Solo encountered Bossk, whereupon the bounty hunter remarked, "But what's one flea-ridden Wookiee or another? Why don't you just go out and get yourself another one?" The comment was not well-received, and resulted in a scuffle that saw both of them detained by local authorities.

Presumably, Bossk is still out there somewhere in the Star Wars universe, seeking bounty contracts and the occasional Wookiee pelts, and perhaps hoping to not encounter Han Solo again anytime soon.

There have, of course, been Bossk figures before. The first one was in 1980. There was another decent one when the Star Wars line returned in the mid-1990's. And there was a truly very impressive 12" Bossk from Hasbro that went into absolutely amazing detail with regard to the uniform. That, until now, I have always regarded as the most impressive Bossk figure.

Well, if that 12" Bossk from several years ago has a 3-3/4" counterpart as far as exacting detail is concerned, it's finally turned up in this latest assortment of VOTC figures. This is really an amazing Bossk. I've always sort of liked Bossk. Okay, he's a low-down miserable bounty hunter, but he's an interesting visual. In the most basic terms, what we have here is a lizard in a space suit.

Bossk's is completely non-human. It looks very much like a lizard, with a fairly small muzzle and rather large nostrils. If there was such a thing as a snub-snouted alligator, it'd probably look a lot like Bossk. Bossk is wearing a flight suit that looks more than a little bit like an X-Wing Pilot's uniform, except that it's pale yellow instead of bright orange. Bossk is not wearing any gloves or boots, however. His long, scaly arms emerge from the sleeves slightly below the elbow, and his reptilian feet protrude from the pants legs somewhat below the knees.

The uniform is a fairly complex piece of work, including a protective vest, a red collar, a belt with assorted straps that hang down the legs, highly detailed cuffs at the sleeves and pants legs that have been very well painted, and very neatly imprinted insignias on each sleeve.

Those areas of Bossk's reptilian hide which show through, including his head, lower arms, and lower legs, have been given a very slight wash of paint. Not enough to make the figure look dirty or weathered. Just enough, really, to bring out the detail of the scales a little bit more. While normally I don't like this particular practice, in this instance, it actually works very well, and is not used on the uniform itself.

Articulation is amazing. This is easily the best articulated Bossk of all time. The figure has a ball-and-socket articulation point at his head, and is poseable with multiple range of motion at the arms, elbows, lower arm swivel, mid-torso, legs, knees, and ankles. The overall paint work is very impressive, right down to come very tiny details, and even including the inside of Bossk's mouth, featuring a painted tongue and some very sharp little teeth.

Bossk comes with a blaster rifle, and is, on the whole, an extremely impressive figure. Any fan of the bounty hunters will want to bring this best-ever Bossk into their collection!

IG-88 - What would make a droid become a bounty hunter? Well, if that droid has been built and programmed as an assassin droid, something that both the Republic and the Empire regarded as simply too dangerous, you find work as close to keeping with your basic programming as possible in order to survive.

According to the "Star Wars Essential Guide to Characters", assassin droids were originally a law-enforcement tool, keeping the peace and capturing or killing dangerous criminals. Later versions were called war droids, and were used as soldiers in the Outer Rim frontiers and the Corporate Sector during the time of the Old Republic. Gradually, the droids were increasingly misused by crimelords and other less-than-savory individuals, and an effort was made to outlaw them. The Republic failed at this. The Empire fared somewhat better in outlawing these droids, but still did not achieve a complete success.

It didn't help that some of the assassin droids had a certain level of sentience and independence. In order to be effective assassins, the droids had to be programmed for a certain autonomy and intelligence. Easily the most dangerous of these droids was IG-88.

Programmers at his facility had given the IG-series the most sophisticated combat programs available, as well as an unpredecented level of autonomy. This proved to be a catastrophic disaster for the programmers, because upon activation, the five IG prototypes killed a number of staff members and escaped the facility.

Of the lot, IG-88 was easily the most dangerous. He hunted down his original designers, executing them lest they find some fatal flaw in his design that might lead to his destruction. He had more than 150 deaths attributed to him, and multiple worlds had a "Dismantle on Sight" order out for him.

IG-88 is probably best described as "lanky". Everything about him is narrow. He has a long, rather cylindrical head with two distinct eyes and other sensors mounted in place, a fairly slender body with assorted mechanical details readily visible, and phenomenally skinny arms and legs. In his own way, he looks less "finished" than C-3PO did in Star Wars Episode I. And yet this is an entirely complete droid. He's extremely tall, having a distinct height advantage over typical humanoid species, who generally come up to just past his shoulders.

Of course, there have been IG-88 figures before. Along with one from the original collection, IG-88 actually turned up fairly quickly when the Star Wars line returned in the 90's, as he was a fairly major player in the "Shadows of the Empire" storyline. There have been two 12" scale versions of IG-88, one of them being the single scarcest 12" scale figure in the original line, just barely released at all, and the other one being a part of the modern line, with the rather amusing feature of telescoping legs so he could be packed in a box that was the same size as that for other 12" scale figures, and yet still assume his full proportionate height once removed from his package.

This newest IG-88, as one might expect, is truly incredible. The most incredible thing about him ia the articulation. It took some very careful design and molding work, I am sure, to find a way to put articulated elbows and knees into THOSE scrawny limbs! But that's hardly the only articulation on the figure. IG-88 is poseable at a midpoint on the head, the beck, the arms, an upper arm swivel, elbows, mid-torso, legs, upper leg swivel, knees (including a swivel) and ankles (including a swivel). Personally, I pity the assembly line.

Some of the parts tend to stick, and I have been reluctant to force them too much. The figure is molded from a fairly flexible plastic, and I'm honestly concerned about twisting a part too far and tearing it off before the articulation point actually kicks in. Precisely WHY the points tend to stick I am not sure. There's not a lot of painted detail on the figure, mostly just a very light overspray of rust on an otherwise pewter-colored figure, which is an entirely appropriate color scheme for this bounty hunter. Maybe the rust paint got into the joints a bit and is living up to its appearance a little too effectively.

There are a number of cables attached to IG-88's legs, that move well with the figure, and what I think is an equipment belt around his waist that is also hooked into the figure at one point. Add to this a shoulder belt with a number of weapons attached to it, including a nasty-looking detachable knife blade. His separate accessories include a large blaster rifle and a small blaster pistol.

It bothers me a little bit that some of his parts don't seem to want to move that well, but I suspect this is something that will improve over time. I would recommend that if you buy IG-88 and have a similar situation -- don't force the parts! This is a very well-made droid, and I am sincerely amazed at the level of articulation they've been able to incorporate into this design, but I suspect that he's a bit on the fragile side, and it wouldn't take a whole lot to tear him apart a bit, and that would be most unfortunate. Just give him some time on his own to -- well -- loosen up, if necessary.

Certainly this matter doesn't cost him my recommendation. This is the best rendition ever of this notable character from the Star Wars Universe.

BESPIN LUKE - Technically the figure's full name is "Luke Skywalker in Bespin Fatigues", but I'm not gonna type THAT every time, so for the purposes of this review, he's Bespin Luke.

Hasbro has been gradually increasing the articulation of most of their Star Wars figures over the past several years, at least those that fit into the more-or-less human category. If they'd drop that annoying diagonal elbow cut once and for all and stop occasionally pre-posing the upper legs (see the Snowtrooper review below), we'd be in really good shape. The so-called "Super-Articulated" format, as a rule, features a ball-and-socket-articulated head, arms that move not only forward and back but outward as well, elbows with a swivel built in, wrists, a mid- torso articulation that generally works quite well (although on occasion is a little apparent visibly), legs, knees with a swivel, and ankles with a swivel. It's really an excellent overall design, and can be applied to most Star Wars figures, at least most of the prominent characters.

That having been said, if it were up to me, I'd be inclined to go back and do all of the major characters from all six movies in this format, at least those that haven't already been done in this format. I mean Qui- Gon Jinn, Anakin as a little kid, Darth Maul, Jango Fett, Zam Wesell, whatever. Heck, even Jar Jar Binks. I'd also do plenty of troopers. Granted, we've already got plenty of troopers.

At this point, there is no good reason for any major player in the Star Wars Universe not to have a figure done in this excellent design format. I'd even be inclined to do a fair number of versions of the popular characters. And that would include Bespin Luke here.

I'm not sure why, but Hoth Han Solo and Endor Leia just didn't appeal to me as much. Maybe it's because I saw them as more limited or more specific in their appearance. We really only saw Leia in this outfit on the Speeder Bike. Han Solo didn't stay bundled up like an Eskimo any longer than was necessary. Those outfits had limited use. Yeah, I know
-- I'm being a nit-picker.

But Bespin Luke? This design works. And frankly he wore portions of it on Dagobah, too. Luke had this outfit for a generous portion of Empire Strikes Back. And -- it's a good design. Luke is no longer the naive farmboy he was for most of Star Wars. On the other hand, he's not a Jedi yet, either.

I'm going to pause here to comment about a Super-Articulated version of Luke in his Tatooine farmboy outfit that was produced. What the heck was up with that removeable shirt? Luke never took that off in the movie. Imagine the sunburn from two suns! Plus the fact that actual cloth pieces on figures as small as Star Wars figures generally don't work too well beyond capes. They barely work as robes. That was one strange production decision to make, and I don't think the end result worked all that well.

Fortunately, Bespin Luke's clothes are molded as part of the figure, and the end result is extremely impressive. Here is Luke at the mid-point. He's not going to return to the moisture farm. But he's not ready to lead a new Jedi Order yet, either. He is a Rebel Soldier, fighting to free the galaxy from the Empire. And he's not going to be running through the streets of Bespin in that bulky X-Wing flight suit of his, either.

Considering some of the costume designs that have cropped up over the years in Star Wars, Luke's outfit here is surprisingly basic. It looks good, it's functional, but it's hardly decorative. I wouldn't want to try to read George Lucas' mind, and I don't intend this as criticism, but it's almost as if they realized during production of "Empire" that they couldn't very well put Luke back in his farmboy outfit, so what the heck were they going to dress him in once he was off Hoth and didn't need to be wearing his X-Wing suit? And they had to come up with something kinda quick.

That's not to say it's a bad outfit. It isn't. But it is pretty basic-looking. I wouldn't even call it especially military, but then at this point in time in the Star Wars universe, the Empire was the military. The Rebellion had military ranks and certain uniforms, but they weren't exactly official military.

The outfit consists of a tan shirt and tan trousers, both of which have multiple pockets and puches in thenm, tan boots, and a brown belt with a holster. Luke comes with a small blaster pistol which can fit in the holster, as well as a blue-bladed lightsaber.

There's a spatter pattern sprayed onto the uniform, but it's even enough so that it almost looks like it's a pattern in the fabric. Of course, I suspect the real reason the uniform looks like this is that Luke didn't have much chance to do his laundry between Dagobah and Bespin. But I wouldn't call the uniform excesstively weathered or dirtied, and there's no such marks on Luke's face or hands.

The face sculpt is good. Luke is no longer the whiny punk he was on Tatooine, suddenly thrown into an adventure way over his head, but he doesn't have the assurance that he reflected as a Jedi. He is more sure of himself than he was, but he's still a little uncertain, and as far as possible for a tiny piece of plastic, the headsculpt reflects this quite well, although I think it could stand to be a little more heroic than it is.

 

Of course, I've already discussed the articulation of this figure, which was my main reason for purchasing it. I was sincerely interested in having at least ONE Luke Skywalker figure in my collection that not only reflected a major appearance of Luke -- that is, how he appeared for a considerable portion of one of the movies -- but also had an articulation level that was up to the current excellent standards of the Star Wars line as a whole.

SNOWTROOPER - Okay, technically the product name is "Imperial Stormtrooper - Hoth Battle Gear", but I don't know much of anybody that doesn't call these guys "Snowtroopers" these days, so that's what we're going with.

Applying the continuity of all of the Star Wars movies, Snowtroopers are the functional descendants of the Galactic Marines, a special branch of Clone Troopers briefly seen in Revenge of the Sith, gunning down Jedi Master Ki-Adi-Mundi following "Order 66", on what looked to be a particularly inhospitable planet weather-wise. Galactic Marines, as such, were Clone Troopers trained and outfitted for unusually hostile planetary environments.

Fast forward to the Battle of Hoth and the Snowtroopers. Hoth was a frozen wasteland of a planet, probably chosen by the Rebellion in the hopes that the Empire wouldn't think to look for them on such an inhospitable world. That strategy didn't work out too well in the long run, and the Empire sent the Rebellion packing offworld as quickly as they could get in their transports, while Snowspeeders did their best to keep the massive AT-ATs at bay while Imperial troopers, garbed in the Snowtrooper gear, entered the Rebel base.

It's probably a little unfair to call this uniform design "Hoth Battle Gear". While this is the first time we ever saw it, of course, it doubtless would work in a number of environments where, for one reason or another, standard Stormtrooper armor just wouldn't quite cut it.

And I wouldn't apply any great significance to its primarily white color scheme as being intended for an arctic setting, either. By the time of the Classic Trilogy, the one-time highly varied color pattern of the Clone Troopers as seen in Revenge of the Sith had been pretty well bleached out of them. Stormtroopers wore white, with maybe a bit of black trim, and that included Snowtroopers and Biker Scouts. TIE Fighter pilots wore black, and most Imperial Officers wore either black or greay. It was a real shock to see the red-garbed Imperial Guards, but hey, if the Emperor wants a little more color around him, who's going to tell him no? Frankly I can't blame him. With the limited color palette of the rest of the Imperial troops, I'd want something around just to reassure myself I hadn't gone color-blind and hadn't noticed.

So in theory, the Snowtroopers' more protective uniforms were probably good for a lot more than just the excessively wintery conditions of Hoth.

Movie-wise, I think it's fair to assume that after running all of those Stormtroopers around in the first movie, George Lucas wanted to present a new variant of Imperial Stormtroopers to us early on in the second movie, and the snow-covered world of Hoth gave him the opportunity to do so.

There are some vague resemblances between a Stormtrooper and a Snowtrooper. Certainly they're both outfitted mostly in white. And both tend to share a similar visor, the two large black "eyes" of their helmets. But for the most part, the similarities end there. A Snowtrooper has much heavier chest armor, but is actually more lightly armored in the arms and legs. The fabric of his uniform is not the black undersuit of a Stormtrooper, but is instead a rather leavy-looking pale grey fabric. The helmet has a protective covering hood underneath it that extende down across the face and over the shoulders to a certain degree. And there's a sort of fabric "apron" that is reminiscent of the ARC Troopers from the time of the Clone Wars. This could be seen as an indication of a higher place within the ranks of Imperial troops.

It makes some sense that the Snowtroopers are somewhat less armored than Stormtroopers. One might assume that the bulkier chest armor has some elements in it that allow the wearer to better weather the elements. At the time time, if you're going to be slogging your way through deep snow on a battlefield, you're going to need to be able to move fairly well. Heavy armor on one's limbs is only going to slow a person down.

It's interesting to compare the visual of a Galactic Marine to a Snowtrooper. The Snowtrooper actually is less armored, but looks bulkier. The shoulder armor is much heavier, as is the torso armor. The Galactic Marine's boots appear heavier, though. Both are wearing heavy backpacks, but the Snowtrooper's looks more advanced. The protective hood underneath the helmet is also larger. But it's not hard to see the relationship between the two.

As to the figure -- I honestly don't recall when the last Imperial Snowtrooper figure was, but I believe there have been several in the modern line. However, this is certainly the best articulated and most impressive specimen to date. There is a rough texture sculpted to the molded fabric of the uniform. The articulation is superb. I have to say that I'm especially pleased to see that none of the figures in this series use the "diagonal elbow cut" articulation that has cropped up in this line, and which frankly I regard as just a bit of a cheat. Hopefully we've seen the last of it.

The Snowtrooper is articulated at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, mid- torso near the waist, legs, knees, and ankles, with a good range of motion in most areas. If I have one complaint about the basic look of the figure, it's that his legs are spread too far apart. He has this sort of "action stance" that I wish had been avoided, and since the legs move forward and a bit backward, but not outward or inward, there's nothing to be done about it. I'm really not sure why this was done here. It's not a major point, but it is a point.

There's also a weird quirk to the figure. If you look at his shoulder armor, you can see "R1" on one of them, and "L2" on the other. Toymakers will sometimes mark a piece that has a counterpart in the assembly of the figure so that the factory workers don't get them confused. But generally they're a LOT more subtle with the placement of those marks. These couldn't've been placed along the portion of the arm that's assembled inside the body!? I mean, the Star Wars universe doesn't even use the English alphabet!

It's not easy to give color detail to a figure like this, but Hasbro succeeded. The uniform is molded in an EXTREMELY pale grey, just the barest hint removed from white, while the armor sections are painted in a very stark white. There's the tiniest hint of tan "dirt" in some areas, but nothing to get bothered about, really. The equipment bags hanging from the belt are a very pale tan. The apron/tunic hanging from the belt is actually made from real fabric, a fairly thick material -- scale-wise, anyway -- with a fairly thick weave. Looks like the same sort of material they use for superhero costumes for action figures. Anyway, it works, but I would recommend handling it carefully. It's not hemmed and it might fray a bit.

And there was one huge surprise to this figure, in my book. It almost felt like the helmet was removable. Very carefully, I decided to see if it would com off. I'm always reluctant to try this sort of thing. One of these days I'm going to be wrong and break something. But, sure enough, the helmet comes off, and -- the Jango/Clone head was underneath!

According to what I've been told, this is not the first Classic Trilogy "Trooper" figure to use this head under the helmet, but it's the first I've come across. Apparently most of the others were special editions of one sort or another. Still, consider for just a moment the implications of this. This is NOT a prequel movie figure. He's from Empire Strikes Back. It's been established that the Empire continued to clone Stormtroopers, as well as enlist them from various worlds, but that among the clones, they continued to use Jango Fett's DNA, as well as other "donors" (some of whom were obviously lousy shots). It's not unreasonable to assume that there's a lot of Stormtroopers -- and Snowtroopers and probably Biker Scouts, TIE Fighter Pilots, AT-AT Drivers, and others, with Jango's face. But this is the first time that I've ever seen it actually CONFIRMED, admittedly just in an action figure. But hey -- Lucasfilm still had to approve it, I'm sure!

So THAT was sort of interesting to see that under the helmet!

The figure comes with a blaster pistol and, apart from the "action pose" and the assembly letters on the shoulders, is really a truly superb Snowtrooper figure, easily the best ever made. And since I suspect he's going to be snapped up as quickly as the Biker Scout was, I'm glad I've got one.

All of these figures -- Bossk, IG-88, Luke, and the Snowtrooper -- are all brand new. They all have 2007 dates on them. You won't be paying a higher price for a figure that has been rehashed in any way whatsoever.

And I'm sincerely impressed with all four of these. I can understand the criticisms regarding the higher price point for what amounts to fancier packaging. I even agree with it to a degree. At the same time, as it stands now, this is the only way to get these four figures, and I would have to say that they are worth it, even for someone with my rather limited income.

BOSSK, IG-88, BESPIN LUKE, and the IMPERIAL SNOWTROOPER, are all truly superb Star Wars figures, excellent representatives of the action figure line as a whole, and certainly the best action figure renditions yet of their respective characters. They all have my most enthusiastic recommendation!