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Grand Admiral Thrawn & Talon Karrde

SW: Heir to the Empire
by yo go re

If there's one author synonymous with Star Wars, it's George Lucas. If there are two, the next is Timothy Zahn. The first author to really kickstart the Expanded Universe, his Thrawn Trilogy introduced a slew of popular characters who are still being used today, not just in the comics and books, but as fodder for action figures.

It's five years after the destruction of the second Death Star. The Rebel Alliance has established a New Republic, but its existence is threatened by the old Empire. Grand Admiral Thrawn commands the remnants of the Imperial fleet and is putting together a plan that will destroy the new government. Thrawn contacts Talon Karrde, a man with valuable information that Thrawn needs in order for his plan to succeed.

Grand Admiral Thrawn - whose real name is Mitth'raw'nuruodo, but nobody is nerd enough to know or care about that - doesn't actually believe in the Empire, per se. He just prized controlled order, and it was easier to maintain that with the Empire than with the young Rebel Alliance. It's also been retconned that he knew about the Yuuzhan Vong - or the Far-Outsiders, as they were called then - and realized the galaxy would need to be strong to defend itself.

Like fellow Heir to the Empire introductee Mara Jade, Thrawn has had an action figure before, in 1998's "Expanded Universe" series of the Power of the Force 2 line. A decade in between releases? Too bad they never adopted that policy for some of the other characters. Thrawn is wearing his white Grand Admiral's uniform, with a black belt and glossy black boots. Unlike the previous figure, the lower edge of his jacket is a separate, flexible piece, rather than being sculpted onto his legs. But for some reason, his hands have sculpted wrinkles that make them look like gloves.

Although the Empire had a staunch "humans first" policy, Thrawn was the rare exception: an alien Chiss, his defining characteristic is his blue skin. That, coupled with bright red eyes and jet-black hair, make for a quite distinct look, which this figure has captured well. He's sculpted with strong facial features and a slight scowl, so the toy has a personality beyond just being "hey, it's the blue guy!"

Thrawn only has one accessory, and since it would have been impractical to put a to-scale Star Destroyer in a comic pack, he gets a ysalamir. The ysalamiri are big lizardy things which, as a result of Darwinian evolution (suck it, Lamarck!), generate Force-negative zones around themselves. He can be draped around Thrawn's neck, but that's not quite right: the ysalamiri suck nutrients straight out of the branches they live on, so the Empire had to design special feeding frames to carry the damn things around. This one's also only got two legs, rather than four; maybe he's sick? Anyway, it's still two more legs than the 1998 version had.

The other member of this set, Talon Karrde, is a smuggler, thief and information broker. And just as usual in the Star Wars universe, that makes him one of the good guys. Basically, he's what Han Solo would have been if he hadn't decided to stay with the Rebellion. By the time of Heir to the Empire, Karrde's orginization had risen to fill the void left by Jabba the Hutt's death, so he was pretty damn influential - but he ruled with loyalty, rather than back-stabbing.

Although Karrde often had a penchant for dressing like a pirate (or a Ren Fair attendee), this figure shows his more casual side. He's rocking the earthtones (or, I suppose the "Myrkr tones," since that's the planet he was on), with brown boots, light brown pants, a tan holster, grey shirt, and a tan vest with brown fur trim. This guy has the dynamic color range of a McFarlane toy! Oh, and if all that wasn't enough, his skin is tanned, as well, so it's nearly the same color as his vest.

Talon's familiar look involves his hair - graying black, with large white streaks running back from his temples. Yeah, he's kind of like Rogue in that way. This figure has the long hair, yes, and it is a nice dark shade that suggests it's fading from black, but it's entirely lacking the white streaks. Shame, that. He does have the appropriate facial hair for the era, though: a big mustache and small goatee. Even without the streaks, there's no mistaking who this is.

Both figures in the set share the same articulation: balljoints at the ankles, knees, elbows and shoulders, swivel hips, waist and wrists, and a ball-and-socket head. For Thrawn, that allows him to stand around looking imposing; for Karrde, it means he can aim the little pistol that fits in his holster. The silver gun even gets a white paint app to accentuate the hand grips. Very cool.

As this is a comic pack, it includes a reprint comic. In this case, Heir to the Empire #1, the first appearance of both these guys (in comic form - the novel came first, of course). I understand the book is quite good, but that doesn't quite translate to the comic: it's a decent read, but it's very choppy and feels rushed. There are no real transitions between scenes, so it doesn't convey an appropriate passage of time. Things that must have taken days or weeks seem to resolve themselves in the span of a conversation. Hell, between one sentence and the next.

The price of toys is increasing, and times are tough all over: it's pretty hard now to buy a multipack that has one winner and one mediocre repaint. Fortunately, both Grand Admiral Thrawn and Talon Karrde are new toys, and they're both done very well. Thrawn is popular enough that he keeps getting retconned into random backstories, and Karrde was a fairly instrumental figure in the early days of the New Republic. Both these guys deserved new figures (or a first figure, in Karrde's case), and you can get them for a good price with this two-pack.

-- 02/22/09

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