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Kylo Ren

SWVII: The Force Awakens
by Rustin Parr

With Rogue One about to come out Hasbro has folded "unmasked Kylo Ren" into the first assortment of Star Wars: The Black Series figures for the new movie, so this is a perfect time to take a look at the Comic-Con version of that figure from this past summer!

A Dark Side warrior with a mysterious past and a temper as fiery as his unconventional lightsaber, Kylo Ren was neither Jedi nor Sith, but a product of the teachings of both. Once an apprentice of Luke Skywalker, Kylo Ren eradicated his fellow students and drove Skywalker into exile to become a First Order warlod and servant of Supreme Leader Snoke, determined to destroy the last remnants of the Jedi and fulfill the legacy of Darth Vader.

Aaaaand, woof. Aside from his perfectly Sith-y temper tantrums and the scene where he tries to read Rey's mind I found everything about not-Darth Revan to be a proverbial bellyflop of a character and a very weak entry into the Star Wars mythos. But, I can see that this movie was essentially his "prequel" (it's the story of what makes him interesting, not him being interesting), so I do have some hope that he'll work better in the sequels. That said, though, The Force Awakens, despite its many flaws, has really grown on me, and having an unmasked Kylo is a pretty worthwhile addition to the collection. And, if you're going to get him, you might as well get the version with all the bonus accessories!

This SDCC 2016 release comes in "deluxe" (read: oversized) packaging. A basic box in the bland Star Wars Black aesthetic, it's as wide as about two and a half regular boxes, just as deep and just and maybe an inch taller. The back is just... the titular black, with the bio-blurb above printed in almost illegibly dark ink. The front has a black-and-white graphic of Kylo from the climactic battle, and as a nice touch his lightsaber is a slightly different shade of red and printed slightly more glossy than the red on the rest of the package, so it stands out against the red strip on the left - the Force Awakens-era non-black color for SWB packaging. That front flap flips open to "reveal" a large graphic of Vader's melty helmet on the back of the cover and all the toy's pieces set into a basic red plastic tray.

The figure himself is the same as the first series' Kylo Ren but gets the "second generation" scarf piece with a more sculptural textured shoulder-wrap that was in the second run of Kylo figures released. And, of course, he come bearing the unmasked head that defines this release. Like most of SWB it's a good enough likeness (though to my eyes it's more John Laroquette than Adam Driver) which would probably look much better were it painted, but detail and accuracy is lost in the semi-translucent fleshtone plastic. The articulation is good, though as always we'll bemoan the lack of double-hinged elbows. Paint is fine, and (other than that the face should have been painted) appropriately minimal.

This figure does seem to get a new neck joint, because the head is actually removable this time. It's a welcome addition and really just highlights how weird it is that the previous Kylos didn't have it (which means we can't put this head on the snowy K-Mart body - trust me, I tried, but couldn't get that figure's head off). This figure does, though, come with that Kylo's lightsabers - both unignited hilt and fully ignited hilt (replacing the "I really see what you tried to do there" removable blades from the original figure). And that's what all you'll get (other than the packaging), were you to pick up ol' SWB #26 at the store now. But those of us who braved the crowds of Comic-Con and jumped through the many hoops to get into Hasbro's booth were treated to a smattering of bonus accessories!

First up is... KYLO'S HELMET!!!! Ooooh! Ahhhhh! It appears to be the same sculpt as the previous figures but is retooled to have a ball-socket inside so that it not only acts as an accessory but as an alternate head - nice!

Then we get the First Order banner. A fairly standard affair, it's the First Order Asterisk printed in black on a piece of red fabric. The fabric is hung from a black plastic bar attached to a ~6½" black heaxagonal rod, which plugs into a black hex base with a raised First Order logo painted red. How... acceptable. At the minimum I would have preferred (indeed expected) the rod holding the banner to be a couple inches taller so that the banner could be visible over, rather than fully blocked by, the figure. And then... why is there no peg on the base!? All in all, this is a nice piece but's not really from the movie, not really remarkable and thus just feels like filler. Which, all told, is what this release feels like. That is, if it weren't for the final accessory...

The reason to go through all the chaos around buying the figure, the reason to want, arguably need, this release is that it comes with Vader's melted helmet. It's the closest thing Kylo Ren has to motivation in the movie and as such is an integral piece for character, if not an iconic image from The Force Awakens. And, like most things about The Black Series, it is.... all right! It's a solid chunk of black plastic with a dark silver drybrush to bring out the details. The sculpt seems fairly good for this scale and the paint is fine. All in all, it's a good piece; not a great piece. My biggest frustration with it is that the underside is flat/full so there's nowhere for Kylo to grip and hold it. And it just seems much too important to just sit at his feet on the shelf. Which then starts one thinking and begs the question: why did we get that banner and stand instead of the ashy/incense-y alter that Kylo keeps this on? They really need to take a cue from the Obi-Wan exlcusive this year (which came with his coffee table and Leia's hologram) and allow us to make a proper diorama from the memorable scene from the movie. But... well, at least we did get that banner and stand, so that'll just have to be my defacto/interim altar.

As a Comic-Con exclusive, this release is almost missable. But getting Vader's melted helmet is almost as big a deal as getting Han in Carbonite (in terms of macguffin props) so I'm really happy that I did manage to get it! Could it have been handled or released differently? Of course! But, this is certainly a "good enough" release so, much like Han in Carbonite, I have to believe it will find wider release down the line. And for the figure - it's good! Arguably even better that the previous Kylo figures; so "if you only get one"...! But of course that is factoring in some of the Black Series issues inherent to most of the figures. But what are ya gonna do? If you, too, want or need Kylo's unmasked visage in your display then you're in luck as the core figure here is (theoretically) on shelves now!

-- 11/05/16

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