The Empire’s Elite has turned one year old! Starting this blog and sharing my Star Wars thoughts has been a lot of fun and I wanted to share some favorite moments from the past year, plus some things to look forward to going ahead. Check it out, meatbags!
Grand Admiral’s Return: Thrawn Review
Questionably canon. Definitely an article. Dive into a book that rides the line between new canon and old legends. This novel has all the space pirates and political backstabbing you could want, plus the untold story of the original Grand Admiral – but more importantly, how’s the read? And how well does it flesh out its place in canon?
Black Series: Rebel Girl Sabine Wren (Review)
Rebel scum never looked so good. A criminally under-utilized character, but a great action figure! Hasbro knocks it out of the park with another Rebels character interpreted into a more realistic art style, and the results are as good as it gets. Continue reading “Black Series: Rebel Girl Sabine Wren (Review)”
Thrawn is Coming
Talk about the Empire’s Elite, am I right? I just preordered my copy of the Barnes and Noble exclusive version of the upcoming Thrawn novel and wanted to share the details for anyone who hasn’t heard the word yet.
Definite Article: Story Arcs vs. Long-Form Storytelling
It’s easy to compare Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels and look upon the newcomer with a little disdain. Rebels came about because Clone Wars was cancelled, and many believe Clone Wars was doing everything right and that it was wrong to start over with Rebels. A prevailing criticism in the Clone Wars vs. Rebels debate is that Clone Wars took more time to tell its stories – they felt stronger, more mature, and well fleshed out. But is Rebels slowly starting to find that pattern and get it right? Continue reading “Definite Article: Story Arcs vs. Long-Form Storytelling”
To Us, She Was Royalty
I had a bad feeling about today but I had no idea it would turn out like this. When I heard the news that Carrie Fisher had passed (after hearing it through some miscommunication I should say – the details seemed muddy, and the last I heard, she was recovering) I almost couldn’t believe it. 2016 hasn’t been kind in regards to the passing of prolific people, but it’s important to remember that the people who leave us live on through their actions in life, and in our fond memories.
Black Series: Cassian Andor and the Death Trooper (Variants)
Fourteen days to go until Rogue One and about two hundred pages left in Catalyst. I have to say I’m enjoying the book just as much as the toys, and it’s all setting up what will without a doubt be a great Star Wars movie. I will probably do a mini-review on the book before the movie comes out. But for now, more toys!
Today I’m reviewing the variants of Cassian Andor and the Death Trooper that are exclusive to Target’s Rogue One Three Pack. Keep an eye out at your local Target and watch for deals – the pack retails for $59.99, but thanks to a 30% off sale I got the pack for right around $40.00. The three pack includes the variants of Cassian and a Death Trooper as well as the same Jyn Erso that is available on its own. Since that’s the exact same figure, I’ll be focusing on Cassian and the trooper.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Cassian’s Eadu costume, the blue jacket, will probably be what he wears for the first portion or maybe half the movie. So this is the outfit he will likely wear on Scariff. The figure looks pretty good overall. His brown jacket is detailed with light brown/tan markings down the sleeves, a possible rank insignia on one side, and another metallic box with two blue dots – perhaps a comlink or some other gadget? The shirt underneath is detailed with a sort of Bespin Han Solo collar and extra flap of fabric below the neck. Cassian is a two-belt type of guy, one to hold his pants up and a separate one exclusively for his holster. Plain tan pants and dark brown boots round out his outfit, and all of it carries a nice earthy tone to its color pallet. Cassian is a pretty simple figure – not simple bad, just not the most interesting. However, I’m biased towards our glorious Empire, so that’s just me.
Here is something very interesting, however – Cassian’s blaster rifle.
Another theory; I really don’t think this modular weapon design is going to play into the movie at all. That’s just my guess, but if we were getting that kind of technology (like a gun that turns into an assault rifle with a couple attachments) I think we’d be seeing it on another toy somewhere. The blaster pistol in the center, while colored differently, is actually the same one included with the Eadu version of Cassian. The other one is just colored differently and lacks the small tab for the stock to attach to. My guess is that it was easier to mold the weapon in production as three pieces, given the level of detail. Regardless, it’s one of the coolest looking guns I’ve seen come out of the Black Series in a while and much more detailed than the blaster that comes with his Eadu outfit. Admittedly, I do take the gun apart just for the satisfaction of putting it back together.
Cassian is well-articulated like most Black Series figures – he isn’t missing ankle rotation like Luke and Ahsoka. The pistol fits his holster if you prefer to break the weapon down for a different look or for play. My only complaint is that there was a small bit by his ear that the paint seemed to have missed, which should match his hair, but that’s nothing that couldn’t be touched up.
Moving on to one of the new addition to our rogues gallery. . . (I’ll show myself out)
I’m calling this one the Death Trooper commander as no specific rank is noted on the box art the way it is with the Scariff trooper squad leader. I’ve seen the name Death Trooper specialist thrown around and admittedly I like that name too. Anyway, this figure is identical to the solo Death Trooper that is also available right now, minus the fact that this one is armored up with extra gear. He includes the same rifle and pistol, but wears a harness containing extra ammo pouches (not unlike a sandtrooper or ARC trooper,) a rank pauldron, and what appear to be grenades strapped across his stomach. As with the previous Death Trooper, all the expected articulation is there underneath the jet black armor. Krennic’s enforcers just look mean. And if you’re like me and reading Catalyst right now, you can see where Krennic started his private attache of troopers during the end of the Clone Wars. But I’ll save spoilers for a spoiler post later on!
All in all, the Rogue One Three Pack is a good value, especially if you can get it through Target’s promotions during the holidays. 30% off was an especially good deal in my opinion, as the way I look at it, I essentially wasn’t paying for the second Jyn Erso. Really, it’s still not a terrible deal at full price – you’re basically paying for three full-priced figures still, but I’m always looking for deals on these. Keep an eye out on Reddit like I do or find a good collectors’ group. You’ll find out pretty quick which figures to grab up and when, and you’ll also known when a figure gets a case of the Constable Zuvios and it’ll be around for a long time (full disclosure – I wanted a Zuvio but waited it out until he was on clearance at my local Target. I think he’s cool enough and he was cut from the movie, which in my mind makes it cooler that he still got a toy release.)
I’m trying to plow through Catalyst before the movie comes out, so that will probably be the next thing I review. So far I’m really enjoying it, and I appreciate the parts of canon it connects and fills in. I was surprised by it, actually. And I can’t wait to see what happens after the fact in Rogue One, seeing it all tied up and fully enveloped into the canon not only by itself, but also by setting up A New Hope.
That’s it for this review. I recommend getting a hold on this three pack but look for the smart deals. The last exclusive to Target (the Poe Dameron jacket variant and the riot control stormtrooper aka FN-2199) was still in stock near me until this three pack came out, so keep you can probably keep your eyes peeled for clearance sale eventually if you have to wait. And as always, thanks for reading and happy hunting!
Black Series: Ahsoka Tano
I found one of these on Black Friday and couldn’t believe my luck. Better yet, there was a sale at Target (buy one Star Wars anything, get another 50% off) so I was able to pick up Ahsoka and Luke Skywalker without breaking the bank.
First off, I can’t gush about the overall look of this figure enough – it’s gorgeous. The new Togruta head sculpt, a first to Hasbro’s Black Series, is spot on. The skin tone and paint apps along the head tails look great. My only complaint about the head sculpt is that with two head tails in the front and one in the back, it makes it difficult to turn and pose her head. But that’s more a flaw in Togruta anatomy than it is anyone’s fault at Hasbro.
Like the new Luke Skywalker, Ahsoka includes hooks at her hips that allow her lightsabers (with the blades removed) to dangle realistically from her sides. Ahsoka is articulated nicely throughout her arms and under the chest armor. Her three-sectioned belt tied to the ring in the front reminded me of Revan’s iconic robes. Maybe the Rebels art department did that as a nod to another Force user who walked a grey path? I’d like to think that’s canon but that’s just me. Anyway, my only problem with the build of the figure aside from the neck rotation is that Ahsoka also seems to have poorly-articulated ankles. Her long boots run over the sides of her feet, which disables any ankle rotation (if there is any to begin with.) And one minor than minor detail about her lightsabers bothered me at first. The hilts are detailed but not painted, but I probably won’t even remember that after this lovely figure has been on the shelf for a while.
Rogue One is coming! Next I will be reviewing the exclusive three-pack of figures from Target’s Rogue One pack. We’re only fourteen days away!
Lego Star Wars 2017 – AKA Why My Wallet Cries
The official set pictures and box art are out, so it’s time to talk about them! For the sake of brevity, I’m just going to post the images of the sets themselves and not the boxes. In no particular order, here they are!
The Phantom (75170)
First and foremost, we’re finally getting a Grand Admiral Thrawn minifigure! I’m going to ignore the fact that in this picture, his eyes don’t appear to be red – it has to be something with the lighting or angle of this shot, because I seriously doubt Lego would mess up the most crucial detail of his face aside from it being blue. The uniform looks great and the actual blue hair, not black, is a great touch. We also get Kanan in his season 3 appearance with the visor/mask he wears after being blinded by Maul. Chopper is here as well, but it doesn’t appear that there is an astromech slot on this ship (much like the original Phantom.) That doesn’t bother me terribly but I believe there is one on the show, though I could be wrong. The colors of this ship look great, and the fact that it’s a Neimoidian (think Trade Federation) design shows how rough and tumble the Rebels are. They don’t have the advantages of the Empire and can’t make all their ships uniform. Looks like the set also includes some thermal detonators and a small storage crate, which probably uses a sticker for that tiny Imperial insignia on the lid.
Dual of the Fates (75169)
I don’t have very many Episode I sets, so I’m happy to see this set instead of another Naboo starfighter right now. It’s a location, which Lego is trying to pepper in between the usual ships and vehicles, which does a decent job of recreating the fight scene from the movie. Do I love it? Not really. The figures look good and I will probably part this one out honestly. However, the figures this time around look better with the updated printing and ditching the capes. The laser barrier looks a little off but I don’t hate this set. It just won’t be the first one I buy.
Yoda’s Jedi Starfighter (75168)
I loved the arc of the Clone Wars (part of the Lost Missions) where Yoda goes on a journey on his own, delving into the mysteries of the Force and his own Dark Side. I would have appreciated the set maybe coming with one of those spirit guides of the Force, or maybe a Darth Bane specter-ghost-thing, but this set still looks good to me. In canon, I don’t understand why Yoda needs this chubby, weird little starfighter just because he’s shorter than everyone. But as a collector, especially one who likes Jedi starfighters? I like this a lot. It’s chubby and weird and oddly cute. You get the excellent recently-revised Yoda figure (accurate to the movies, not the cartoony Clone Wars style) and R2-D2.
Battle on Scarif (75171)
Now this is a good location set. It looks to me like a bunker entrance or small landing pad on the tropical planet Scarif, which is a totally new planet from Rogue One. In addition to what looks like a blast door, there’s some details such as palm trees, sandy walkways, some kind of antenna or generator, and a drawer-like section that reveals storage for weapons and accessories. Figures included are Cassian Andor in his normal brown jacket (not the bulky blue parka he wears on Eadu,) Jyn Erso disguised in Imperial ground crew attire, and two new Scarif stormtroopers/shoretroopers. It’s worth noting that they do not have the blue rank printing like the one included with the TIE striker, meaning these guy are army-building grunts. It looks like you get plenty of gear, too – another orange (Kyber crystal storage?) crate, blasters, thermal detonators, and the Death Star plans to name a few. I’m definitely going to build this one and maybe even find a spot for it in the Star Wars corner of my apartment.
Y-Wing Starfighter (75172)
Here’s one where my wallet and I will have words. I already have the last Y-Wing from a couple years back, but this one comes with so much more! It includes a pilot, a blue-complected Mon Calamari named Admiral Raddus, a Y-Wing pilot in navy blue, a stormtrooper, a rebel astromech droid, and the Gigoran mercenary Moroff. I want that Moroff figure bad. As I’ve said before, I love weird mercenary characters, and a towering white Wookiee looking guy with a backpack full of blasters is as weird as they get! There’s also a grounds crew vehicle included to truck around all the extra ammo for the Y-Wing. I don’t know where I’m going to put it, but I’ll be buying this one too.
Rebel Trooper Battle Pack (75164) and Imperial Trooper Battle Pack (75165)
Another good-looking battle pack I will probably buy five of. Here we get two regular stormtroopers and a pair of Death Troopers. These Death Troopers differ from the specialist variant included with Krennic’s Imperial Shuttle – they have different printing and lack the black pauldrons. Actually a nice touch to differentiate the two, since it is rumored there are only about five or six Death Troopers in the movie – probably an elite squad with a handful of unique troopers. As usual, I can kind of take or leave the actual build in this pack. It’s a weird little walker, like a small open-cockpit AT-ST with big guns and stud launchers.
This is another great rebel battle pack. I thought the Battlefront one was good (and it is) but this is also great. Like the Battlefront pack, you get a good variety of troops. No aliens, but there appear to be four different face prints here – black beard, brown beard, no beard, and no beard with a dark skin tone. The bodies are also totally different and you get two unique helmets. The build itself isn’t bad either. A speeder bike and a nice little piece of scenery with the gun emplacement? Sold!
The big figs. I kinda want the shoretrooper, but I could take or leave a lot of the buildable figure line. Like everyone says, the helmeted characters look pretty good, especially as shelf pieces. But the actual human faces look a little weird.
And the Microfighters
The microfighters are cute but I don’t buy a lot of them, usually just for the good figures. The most exciting ones here are the rebel pilots in their new blue flight suits, which is a striking visual change from the usual bright orange. Also, the Y-Wing is getting an official release! A similar kit was released as part of a book but it is now officially part of the microfighter line.
So is everyone ready to be broke in 2017? Let me know what you think of these kits in the comments! And as always, thanks for reading!
Definite Article: Mandalorian Mayhem
Head canon wearing the best helmets in the galaxy. Check out the Definite Article for a mix of canon, Legends, and head canon takes on everything Star Wars!
I love the Empire and they’ve done nothing wrong. But when it comes to the vast array of unique races and cultures throughout Star Wars, nothing beats the Mandalorians in my opinion. This race of fierce warriors dates back to the days of the (Legends) Old Republic, where they frequently allied themselves with Vitiate’s Sith Empire as bounty hunters and mercenaries. They were known to wear distinct armor colored to reflect family ties and honored traditions, and their suits of tough armor were also renown for turning the wearer into a walking armory. Mandos get all the coolest gear, from jetpacks and wrist rockets to cutting edge blasters, tether cables, and jetpack-mounted missile launchers. Not only do I love them, but the Empire are apparently fans too. And that’s canon now, so let’s talk about it!
“Imperial Supercommandos,” the most recent episode of Star Wars Rebels, pits Sabine and Ezra against Mandalorians on two sides as they reach out to Concord Dawn to reestablish contact. Mandalorian soldiers loyal to the Empire and lead by former Shadow Collective member Gar Saxon have destroyed the encampment of Fenn Rau, and his forces are killed in the process. Seeking to escape rather than join the body count, Rau escapes in the new Phantom after Ezra distracts the other Mandalorians. Long story short, he has a change of heart and turns back to save Sabine and Ezra from the supercommando team. Okay, so that might be an oversimplification of the episode, but honestly I saw that ‘twist’ coming a mile away. However, I liked this episode a lot. Both the supercommandos and Fenn Rau are sympathetic, even though Rau does put the kids in a rough spot by leaving them behind. The Mandalorians under Gar Saxon want power to restore the former glory of Mandalore, and the only way to stay in power is to side with the Empire. Odds are it isn’t going to pay off greatly for them, but you can sympathize with a warrior culture wanting to stick to its ways while, at the same time, trying to cement a better future and hoping they can outlast the Empire.
This episode makes some great contributions to the new Mandalorian canon established by The Clone Wars series. First and foremost, Imperial Mandalorian soldiers are canon now. Originally that was just an idea back in the day when Boba Fett was just a better version of a stormtrooper, not a bounty hunter, and he wore all white armor.
Secondly, Gar Saxon is back and has become a pawn of the Empire, given a title of Viceroy of Mandalore. Sabine doesn’t care much for Gar, and rightfully so – he used to ally himself with Maul, who ruled Mandalore for a short time near the end of The Clone Wars. It’s great to see him back after his appearances in the Son of Dathomir comics. The only thing that bothers me is that he teases a lot of backstory on Sabine and none of it pays off in the episode. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Sabine gets the short end of the stick on this show most of the time. All this backstory is teased yet it doesn’t pay off or actually include her. We learn that Gar knows who Sabine’s mother is and that she is looking for Sabine. We still don’t know who she is, if that’s even true or if Gar is bluffing, or who her mother is. The Sabine episodes tease a lot of what I’m hoping will eventually be a very compelling Mandalorian character. But in the meantime, we’ve had several episodes explaining Chopper’s backstory. Chopper has PTSD after crashing in a Y-Wing during The Clone Wars, and he was rescued by Hera Syndulla (who also could use some more story time in my opinion.) Chopper can fend for himself, is often violent, and is so stubborn that he will often defy direct orders. What do we know about Sabine? She paints. She’s spunky and quippy. She’s from Mandalore and went to the Impreial Academy there, knows several languages, and has a mother she’s been distanced from. We don’t know how she came to the Ghost crew, much at all about her childhood on Mandalore, or what she’s truly fighting for. It’s arguable that she gets plenty of screen time, but I think her time could be used better on this show.
Moving on, the episode does take some steps in the right direction even if they are just teasing again with more light Sabine backstory. I like that this episode didn’t have a single “look how stupid the stormtroopers are” moment and that the rest of the Ghost crew wasn’t in the episode after the initial few minutes. It’s giving Sabine some time to do her own thing, dealing with people she recognizes in the only way Mandalorians know how; helmets on and blasters out. I was expecting Gar Saxon to have the dark saber but that didn’t happen, at least not yet. But we know Sabine gets it later on, and I think getting it from Gar makes the most sense. Either that or it’s in Thrawn’s collection somewhere. I appreciated seeing some Clone Wars loose ends tied up without having another cameo-of-the-week as well, though admittedly I am excited to see Bo Katan come back later on because it means more Mandalorian-centric episodes this season. Mandalorian participation in galactic events beyond mercenary wok is an interesting step in the right direction. Pre Vizla was shaping up to make big changes before he was killed by Maul. And while we’re on that topic, what are these ties between Clan Wren and House Vizla that keep coming up? How deep does that go?
Something I’m very excited about is that I think these Mando-centric episodes are going to set up some pre-A New Hope Boba Fett stories. These supercommandos probably don’t survive season three, but who do we know who is also an awesome Mandalorian? Boba Fett! I’d love to see him even if it isn’t until season four. He’s known to work with the Empire and we might even get to see how he establishes his connections with Vader. I’m probably dreaming, but that’ the episode I’d make if I was in charge. Oh if I was in charge…
So what did you think about this episode? Like Mandalorians as much as I do? Leave a comment below and let me know! And as always, thanks for reading.