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Darth Vader

SWV: Empire Strikes Back
by yo go re

A while back, Artemis reviewed what was, at the time, the ultimate Darth Vader figure, offering acts of physical love if anyone ever made a better one. Hasbro apparently really wanted a piece of that action, because it wasn't even two years later when this toy was released.

Since this is part of The Vintage Collection, there is no specific information about Darth Vader on the back of the card. But come on, is there anyone who doesn't know Darth Vader by now? Your grandparents could probably recognize him and tell you a little bit about him, so what is Hasbro going to print on the card that's worth reading?

From the neck down, this figure is identical to the one Artemis reviewed. He's got the basic ribbed bodysuit, rough and crinkled like the thick, tough fabric it is, with gauntlets to match. Atop that sits his armor, painted mainly in gloss black to stand out against the matte bodysuit - boots and greaves, codpiece, the life-support chest unit with its buttons and lights picked out in subdued green and red, the similar smaller units on his belt, with its silver buckle, and the mantle over his shoulders, which is coloured in banded silver for visibility.

And then there's the robe and cloak. There are two layers: an outer cloak over his shoulders and an inner robe that runs under his armor. On this figure, all that is softgoods - the robe is attached beneath the shoulder mantle, is held tight against the body by the belt, and then falls around the legs. The cape is anchored by the neck, and has a decorative silver cord draping against the chest. The material used for the toy is thin - nearly diaphanous - so at this scale, it hangs very much like the heavy cloth used on the real costume. The weave of the fabric is oriented vertically, helping the realism, and the outer edge of the cape is hemmed, giving it more weight than the body.

The head, on the other hand, is new. Artemis raved about the two-piece removable helmet, a first for Star Wars toys. Well, it was supposed to have a three-piece helmet, but the sculpting wasn't done in time, so they released it the way it was. This version, however, has the fully functioning helmet, and that's awesome.

The first piece is the upper shell, the dome and neck flare that could be a part of a real-world helmet. The second piece is the faceplate, with the bronze panels on the sides and the flat round plate where the helmet attaches. The third piece is the collar and jaw plate, with small silver details painted on the front and back. To get that one off, you have to remove the figure's head, which also means the cape can fall off. Careful!

We never saw Vader's head this unmasked in the films - even when Luke took his helmet off at the end of Jedi, the jawplate/collar stayed in place, effectively concealing the lower half of his face. This one shows it for the first time ever, and it's pretty good. There's a bit white swath of pale paint on his chin, which makes it look like his jawbone is exposed (even though the plastic beneath the paint is clearly sculpted to be an old man's jowls). And while he has most of the appropriate scars, there should be two on the back of his head, not just one. The way his skin is sculpted to bulge out over the upper edge of the collar is nice, though.

The articulation is decent, but not flawless. In order to accommodate the removable head, the neck is just a peg joint, but it's not like the costume allowed him to look up and down in real life. He has swivel/hinge shoulders and elbows, and swivels for the gloves. His waist turns, and since the belt is a separate piece that can turn with him, the fact that his robe runs beneath it doesn't really impede the motion. The hips are just swivels, but the knees and ankles are swivel/hinge. He's ready to clumsily fight his own son in the bowels of Cloud City.

Of course, he also has his red lightsaber. It's perhaps a bit more pink than red, but the hilt is black and silver, and there's no mistaking who it belongs to. Since this figure is allegedly based on ESB, it would have been nice if he also came with a Luke face so you could re-create that scene as well.

I own about a dozen Darths Vader, several of them nearly identical to each other, other than what portion of his helmet you can remove. With one fell swoop, this figure replaces nearly all of them. The only thing he's missing to be "the only Darth Vader you ever need" is a removable right hand, but that is no reason to ignore this toy. There's no better Vader you can buy.

-- 05/03/14

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