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Mara Jade

SW: Heir to the Empire
by yo go re

Despite everyone using "the Black Series" to refer to the 6" Star Wars figures, that's not technically what it means; there's also a line of the traditional 3¾" figures that Hasbro also identifies as "the Black Series" because why wouldn't you want things to be as confusing as possible?

An assassin for Emperor Palpatine, Mara's life changes when she meets - and eventually marries - Luke Skywalker.

Mara Jade was created by Timothy Zahn for the Heir to the Empire series, primarily because Star Wars (like Lord of the Rings) had a lack of female characters. She was written specifically as a foil for Luke Skywalker, sort of reversing the dynamic between Han and Leia. She's competent, but flawed; emotional, but intellectual; and has a hard time connecting to people, but longs to be surrounded by people she can trust. Wow, it's almost like you can write a woman to be just as complex and interesting as a man. What a novel idea!

The name Mara means "bitter" in Hebrew - and you know she was pretty jaded after her rather rosy view of the Empire was shattered following Palpatine's death. Meaningful name! The likeness definitely looks a bit like Shannon McRandle, the woman who originally modeled for Mara in the Decipher card game. But there is an unavoidable flaw:

At some point between this figure being unveiled at SDCC '13 and it going into full production, Mara's hair went from "reasonable size" to "the drummer from Whitesnake." It's ridiculously big. You can excuse it, however, if you remember that (were she being introduced in a movie shot at the appropriate time) it would have been the '80s, and this is probably what she would have looked like. If we can accept Luke Skywalker rocking a 1970s paigeboy, we can (begrudgingly) accept a character he meets a decade later applying half a can of hairspray every day. (Still doesn't mean we have to like it, though - the old sculpt would have been better.)

That problem aside, the rest of the figure is pretty good. Unlike the last Mara Jade figure, this one is wearing the right color. She's in her sleeveless black bodysuit, with the brown leather harness around her shoulders. The suit has a slew of tiny horizontal wrinkles, suggesting its leather texture, and there are two raised lines of piping that run down the front, and ribbed panels on the insides of the legs, just like on the playing card. She has black kneepads, armored protection that buckles around her shins, and black gloves. Her belt is a separate piece, but it's glued pretty firmly in place - don't be expecting to slide it off to swap with someone else.

The articulation is mostly terrific. Mara has a balljointed head, swivel/hinge shoulders and elbows, swivel wrists, T-crotch, and swivel/hinge knees and ankles. She doesn't have a waist, but she does get a balljointed torso that serves as an equivalent. That all sounds pretty good, so why did we say it's only "mostly" terrific? Well, thanks to GI Joe and Marvel Universe, we've grown used to balljointed hips and rocker ankles; having these lesser joints seems... incomplete, somehow. Plus, in much the way that Rustin was praising MotU Classics for its interchangeability, why the eff is the balljoint on this figure not the same size as the last one? At least then we'd be able to swap away her teased-out hair. This figure's bigger (nearly 3⅞" tall), but her neck-ball is smaller.

The figure doesn't come with very much in the way of accessories. She's got her lightsaber (in both "on" and "off" modes), a black pistol, and a brown holster. That's it. The unignited lightsaber hilt can plug into her belt, and the holster can either be attached on her hip or in the small of her back; that's pretty neat! Her lightsaber blade is a pale purple, just as it should be.

What diabolical gypsy curse prevents Hasbro from releasing a Mara Jade (or "Mara Jade Skywalker," as the UPC box calls her) figure without some major error? The original was okay for its time, but that was before figures had elbows and knees; the last one was purple instead of black; and this one has the hair. So she's good, but not great, and at the inflated prices we're being asked to pay for these now, "good" doesn't provide enough value.

-- 13/11/13

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