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Asajj Ventress

SW: Clone Wars
by Artemis

Pondering the discovery of a Sith in Star Wars Episode I: Hey Fanboys, Give Me Your Money, Yoda explained: "Always two there are - the master, and the apprentice." Evidently he didn't think it was worth mentioning that there are also about a bajillion maniacal force-wielding Sith hangers-on scattered about the galaxy.

Found by Darth Sidious's apprentice Count Dooku on the harsh world of Rattatakm, Asajj Ventress Asajj Ventress is recruited into the service of the Sith after she proves herself worthy of their attention. Gaunt and bitter, the wiry assassin is trained in the Jedi arts, but her heart is a cold, blackened stone, scorched by resentment against the Jedi who abandoned her and hardened by the cruelties of her brutal world. In a savage gladiatorial contest, Ventress displays lethal excellence in both covert infiltration and combat techniques. Her remorseless slaying of her competitors, either with precise lightsaber strokes or cruelly innovative wielding of her ample Force powers, impresses the Sith, though Dooku himself tests her to determine the true depths of her resourcefulness and mastery of the darkest applications of the Force. Ventress is provided with a ship, new weapons and a purpose - destroy Anakin Skywalker - a task to which she takes with glee.

It's not often I have any feeling for Anakin - besides wishing Watto had done the decent thing and stuck the boy's head into the business end of a C2-R4 recycler droid - but you can't help but sympathise with anyone who wakes up to find this crazy-looking bitch on their case. Chosen One or not, I bet he needed a new set of under-robes afterwards.

Asajj is one of the aforementioned legion of apprentices, animated mercenaries, and general-purpose psychopaths that the Sith acquired when everyone realised that you can't tell many fun stories about the Clone Wars if there's only two people in the galaxy who can give a Jedi Knight a run for their money - but she wasn't always. When Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Godawful Romance Subplot was in development, the first concept for the film's main ne'er-do-well was a female Sith Lord. Lucas wasn't having that, of course, since there can only be one female character of any significance in any given Star Wars film, so the would-be Sithette was shelved, and later became the basis for Asajj. Lucky break for her, though - she survived in the end, while Dooku went on to get topped in a display of jobbing so humiliating it'd make Wile E. Coyote flinch.

Before we get to the figure herself, let's look at the packaging - not something often done here at OAFEnet (except for yo's habitual anti-clamshell rants), box but even an inveterate packaging-opener like myself takes a moment to stop and appreciate a job this well done. Asajj comes in a fold-out glossy black box sporting minimalist, effective graphics and large photos of the figure itself in various poses, along with comic book art and Clone Wars stills on the back. The box is held closed with little magnets inside the cardboard, for easy damage-free opening and closing, and inside, as well as showing off Asajj and her accessories snug in their trays, there are two very comprehensive texts - one a five-paragraph summary of the Sith and Darth Sidious's rise to power, the other a three-paragraph bio of Asajj and the part she played in the Sith master plan (the bio in this review is the middle paragraph of this). I'm normally happy to liberate my figures from their plastic prisons any way that won't damage the figure itself in the process, but even I took care not to mar the packaging this time, so as to keep it intact in storage.

Moving on to the star of the show, what we have here is the Sideshow Collectables "Lords of the Sith" Asajj Ventress, at 1:6 scale - which, incidentally, puts her at an inch or two above six feet tall in real life. And of course she's a doll, rather than an action figure - unless you're not secure in your masculinity, in which case you can call her a "deluxe collector figure" like DC Direct does with theirs - so instead of discussing her sculpt jazzercize (which, apart from the head, boils down to "she has decent hands") let's have a look at her outfit. First of all, she's not one of those cheap figures who are sewn into their clothes - the zip on her jumpsuit doesn't have a tag on it, but though I didn't personally bother coaxing it open I don't see any reason why it wouldn't, which means if it suits your fancy, you can have Asajj buck naked. I wouldn't try it though - she doesn't look like she's got much of a sense of humour.

The first layer of costume is the jumpsuit, a soft, flexible cloth one-piece that zips up her back, and covers everything but her hands and head (yup, even her feet). It's not stocking-thin, so it covers up the edges of the body's joints beneath it fairly well - the knees are a spot that would normally show up if the costume is too thin, but they look okay when bent - but it's an elastic fabric with quite a lot of spring in it, so it conforms to the body well, and only bunches annoyingly under extreme provocation (like on the arms, but we'll get to that in a moment). The light sections - a very light ash grey - are slightly thicker than the black, and as well as the necessary stitching to keep the whole thing together, there's a stitched pattern on the front of the torso, which is understated enough that you can easily miss it, but gives the outfit a nice bit of detail when examined closely.

On top of that are several rigid plastic pieces - the collar, vambraces (the forearm armour) and boots. Both the collar and vambraces have a ribbed design, which on the collar is rather reminiscent of Kayan neck rings - indeed, in some of her appearances Asajj has a very long neck, although it's played down in the more realistic art styles, as opposed to the stylised Clone Wars cartoon, and on the figure it's really nothing out of the ordinary. The vambraces, though they fit both forearm and hand well, have the unfortunate effect of pushing the sleeves up her arm, causing them to bunch around her elbows and biceps - bunched sleeves with careful manipulation they can be smoothed out and held in place through the vambrace as it's being put on, but the moment you start playing with her arms the sleeves will start riding up again. Your best bet is just to get them to a more or less decent appearance, and then consider playability an adequate trade-off for the bunching that'll occur. The boots are more functional, with buckled straps moulded onto the front over the tongue, the buckles picked out with a decent but unremarkable silver paint app.

Around her waist Asajj wears a two-piece skirt, slit up the front of both legs, and a heavy holster belt. The skirt is made from a thin, stretchy fabric, and has a pre-posed wire in the bottom hems, front and back, to keep it folding tightly over on itself, rather than spreading out flatly - it's quite effective, though the wire tends to stay where it is, rather than being an aid to "poseability" (if you can use that word for a skirt). She's packaged with the skirt sewn shut by a single thread, but there's also a stud to hold it closed, and it does so perfectly adequately without the thread. The belt is a source of minor annoyance, since the straps are only glued into the plastic buckle - and a small dab of glue on a soft belt strap lasts about as long as a Jedi's right hand in a duel. There's no actual buckle in the "buckle," so the belt will simply pull open - the fit of the buckle is tight enough that it won't fall open on its own, but when you're posing the figure, expect to have to reattach the belt now and then. As well as small silver-painted studs, there are thin metal rings hanging off the various belt straps, and two sockets that hold the matching plugs on the lightsaber hilts quite securely. Since the belt will sit over the waist of the skirt, the whole arrangement ends up being quite a bit wider than the jumpsuited waist and torso beneath, stay back, vampire! which makes the hips look heavy - what with the similar heavy skirt design, plus the metal rings, it puts me in mind of the early Cenobites.

Finally there's the mandatory robe, which, like previous Sideshow efforts, incorporates arguably their greatest contribution to Jedi dolls: the wire in the hood. If you've never encountered one such hood, I simply don't have the words to convey how useful this feature is - the appearance of weight and scale you can give the hood by positioning the wire adds immeasurably to the overall realism of the figure. The robe has sleeves, cut to match Asajj's arms - no folded hems, which is a bit irksome when you see a visible inner stitch poking out of the end of the sleeve - but they can sit against the back, and the whole thing functions equally well as an off-the-shoulder cloak. It's long enough to reach the ground and then some, so once you've got her posed you can use the friction of the robe's edge against the surface to "pose" it a little bit, though obviously it can't be flapping in the wind or streaming out behind her.

Despite the bio's description of her as "gaunt" and "wiry" (and representations such as the Unleashed mini-statue, which makes her look positively ghoulish), Sideshow's Asajj is actually somewhat gorgeous, animated style once you become accustomed to the gray skin and pure white eyes. Her appearance is based in design on the Clone Wars cartoon, rather than the comics and suchlike where she had regular (albeit black-irised) eyes and often intricate tattoos on her temples, but the style and dimensions of her head are quite realistic, eschewing Clone Wars' heavy stylisation. Personally I think this meld of cartoon distinctiveness and realism is the best look for her, but if you're attached to her irises and tattoos there's an exclusive version of the doll available with an alternate head - realistic style though I imagine you'll be paying a hefty price for it by now. The skin tone is a very clever shade of gray - gray enough to be alien, but not so gray as to be ashen or corpse-like, and though there's obviously no warmth in her skin tone, there is a sense of vitality to it. It's also just far enough towards the blue side of the spectrum to be distinct from the warmer gray of her jumpsuit, so she doesn't look entirely monochrome. Her eyes stare almost luminously out of heavy black eyeliner and eyebrows, and her lips are a glossy black. Her head does seem rather large (then again, she is an alien, maybe it's meant to be), though having her hood on completely hides that, and the facial sculpt is very attractive, in a cold, aloof kind of way.

I'm going to have to skimp on describing Asajj's articulation a bit, since I never got her naked - she said she was flattered, but I wasn't her type. kneel Her neck is a balljoint, but the collar restricts it aside from rotation - with a bit of a push you can get her head to tilt side to side or forward and backwards a bit, but it's not what you'd call a free range of motion. Her wrists are swivels mounted on peg joints, so she can tilt her palms up and down - the vambraces fit best with these joints in their middle position, but with careful positioning they can accommodate more tilting. Aside from that, all I can tell you is what I could tell with her clothes on - there's swivel forearms, and the knees are definitely double pegs, but the rest is a bit of a mystery. She did move in pretty much every way I wanted her to move while I was playing around with her, so there's definitely shoulders, biceps, elbows, a torso joint, a waist, hips, thighs, shins, and ankles as well as the aforementioned neck, wrists and knees. Whatever the actual specs of her body design, you'd have to be in a pretty demanding mood to want better articulation than she has.

No one has any business calling themselves a Jedi - good or evil - if they haven't got a lightsaber, and like 98% of the population of the prequel trilogy, Asajj has a custom set. curved, for her pleasure Hers are a pair of curved hilts that join together, end to end, to form a wavy-handled staff - which honestly looks a bit strange, so I imagine most people will be displaying her with the blades separated. The hilts are two inches long, finely detailed and painted with silver tech elements over a basic glossy black, and sport plugs for the belt holsters, control knobs, and angled flash guards not unlike Vader's saber. click! The joining is accomplished via two small but quite powerful magnets in the pommels, which not only hold the two sabers securely together without the use of break-prone plugs and sockets, but also - as the magnets align themselves - take care of getting the positioning just right when you bring them together. Asajj comes with two sets of sabers, lit and unlit, and - aside from the 6" red blades on one pair (thankfully there's no silly sculpted "flare" like the smaller action figures have) - they're identical. They fit snugly in either hand, but not so tightly that getting them in and out is a chore, or risks doing damage to the soft plastic fingers and thumbs.

She also comes with an extra right hand, push! sculpted with the fingers open but not splayed, and angled at the wrist so as to attach to the arm with the palm outwards - a "force push" hand, in other words. Sadly, I couldn't make the gripping hand budge - the wrist and forearm detaches easily from the rest of the arm, but before I reached the amount of force necessary to pop the hand off the wrist, I stopped for fear of tearing the peg out. Possibly it's made of stronger stuff than I'm giving it credit for, but I wasn't willing to try my luck. Just put it on her shoulder and pretend it's Thing's evil sister, or something.

She also comes with a standard Star Wars waist clamp stand, which I found to be of limited use. The metal clamp slides up and down freely in the plastic sleeve mounted on the base, but even at its lowest, where the sleeve holds the prongs together most tightly, pose! it's still a bit loose around Asajj's waist, so it's not much good for leaping poses, or anything too dramatic. It's decent at holding her upright when she's in a standing but unbalanced pose - she can stand on her own, but you have to be very delicate with her rubber high-heeled boots to keep her from tipping over, so in that regard the stand is useful unless you've got something for her to subtly lean back against. It's not easy to hide, though - the silver prongs are highly visible against the black of her jumpsuit along the sides of her torso, and since the prongs extend backwards before going down into the stand, you can't slip the clamp up beneath her belt to conceal it from view. If you can live with seeing the clamp around her waist, the stand will suffice, but since I had the option available I gave her a smaller clamp stand from a Final Fantasy VII figure, which isn't big enough to get around her waist but can keep her balanced with a grip on her thigh instead, and is fairly well covered beneath the skirt.

Asajj isn't a cheap figure, and the stand is a bit mediocre, but everywhere it counts - design, sculpt, paint, costume, articulation, lightsabers - she's very good, verging on excellent. The price tag may be high compared to a 6" action figure, but you get value for money.

Die, Jedi!


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