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Rebel Commando

SWVI: Return of the Jedi
by yo go re

Here's to the power of character re-interpretation.

Originally this was just a white-bearded Rebel trooper, and while he was distinct enough to stand out, nobody really cared about him any more than any other trooper in the woods. Then in 2002, somebody working on The Official Star Wars Fact File (credited writers are Chris Gardner, Liz Holliday, Andy Lane, Iain Lowson, and Jim Swallow) had the cheeky idea to give him the name "Nik Sant," and that pun was all it took for him to start receiving attention.

In late 2015, the second season of Star Wars Rebels introduced a group of aging Clones who were living in seclusion to avoid the Empire; among them was Rex, one of the major captains from The Clone Wars, and in his old age he was now bald and had a big, bushy white beard. Eventually some forgotten fan asked the question: what if that guy on Endor was Rex, drawn back into the conflict? The theory quickly gained traction, with even Dave Filoni saying he believed it to be the case. The Rebels finale canonized that Rex took part in the Battle of Endor, though it stopped short of directly saying he was Nik Sant. But I can tell you this: if he wasn't, I wouldn't own this figure today.

This figure is part of the 40th Anniversary Return of the Jedi Commemorative Series, meaning it's on one of those giant stupid blister cards and the only place you'll ever be able to get it is somewhere overpriced like Best Buy or GameStop. Thanks, Hasbro! We certainly wouldn't want the goddamn army-builder figure to be cheap, plentiful, and easy to find! He's wearing the normal Endor gear: neutral boots with gaiters, green airbrushed camouflage pants, gray shirt, brown vest, and tan gloves. There's a belt around the waist with several utility pouches hanging from it, and a bandolier with random tech pieces attached to it slung across the chest. You can take the vest off, but you're not meant to, because it has enough of a sleeve to cover the outside of the shoulders, and that part of the design is molded on the arms, not part of the accessory.

The Endor Rebel Soldier Commando duplicates a feature from 2020's Hoth Rebel Trooper, though with a difference: this time it's actually known about. The Hoth Trooper had swappable faces, two different appearances you could put on the body to add variety to your display, but for whatever reason, Hasbro hid the second face; there was absolutely no way of knowing about it before buying the toy. If that seems dumb, well, you're right, it is. For the Endor Trooper, the second face is visible right there in the tray.

Technically Nik/Rex's face is the alternate - the "regular" face is a younger guy, seemingly meant to be Sgt. Junkin, though he wore his bandolier over the opposite shoulder, making it clear who (Rex) this figure is mainly meant to represent (Rex Rex). Both faces get very nice Photo Real paint that accentuates the sculpt, and they swap in and out of the head easily. This is, however, an extremely missed opportunity: imagine if these faces had been compatible with the Hoth figure, allowing you to trade them all about however you liked!

Rex's articulation is regular Black Series stuff: barbell head and neck, pec hinges, swivel/​hinge shoulders, swivel/hinge elbows, swivel/​hinge wrists, a balljointed waist, balljoint hips, swivel thighs, swivel/hinge knees, and swivel/hinge ankles. He's armed with the same two weapons the Hoth Trooper had: a BlasTech A280 sharpshooter rifle, and a DH-17 blaster pistol. He also gets a backpack, and therein lies a problem.

The reason no one knew about the Hoth Trooper's face-changing play feature was, like we said, that the second face was hidden in the package; specifically, it was hidden inside the Trooper's backpack, which had an unobtrusive panel that could be removed to reveal a cavity where whichever face wasn't being used at the time could be stored. Brilliant idea, right? So why doesn't the Endor Commando get the same thing? The backpack just slides onto the figure's arms, rather than plugging in in any way, but the backpack doesn't open or anything, despite having plenty of bulk to make room for a face inside.

Proving that some people will hear a buzzword and then try their damnedest to show off how smart they are by using it, I recall at least one fan being opposed to identifying the former "Nik Sant" as Rex because it was, and I quote, "whitewashing" the character. No, sorry, honey, that's not how that works: if you have a non-white character and cast a white actor to play them, that's whitewashing; if you have a character who was played by a white actor 40 years ago and retroactively declare them to be a (space-)Maori character intoduced 20 years later, that's not whitewashing the character. If anything, it's brownwashing the actor. It's better from a storytelling standpoint for that nameless Rebel to be Rex than to be Nik Sant; Hasbro has been trying to make fetch happen with Rex ever since The Clone Wars started, but it took until Rebels for there to be any traction on that. It's cool to finally get a toy of him, even if the card wants to pretend he's someone else.

-- 12/16/23

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