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The Rogue Shadow

by Artemis

Star Wars and Lego are a natural match - who didn't cobble together an ersatz (and usually psychedelically-coloured) Millennium Falcon or X-Wing out of Lego when they were young? Of course, your day-glo red AT-STs and blocky Sail Barges all had to be crewed by yellow-skinned astronauts with walkie-talkies and bazookas, so it's just as well that there's now official Star Wars Lego to give us proper figures.

Juno Eclipse was born on Corulag, and became the youngest cadet to be accepted The Force Unleashed into the Imperial Academy at age fourteen. Juno quickly excelled in starship repair and became a talented combat pilot. She also perfected her skills in droid maintenance and marksmanship. After graduating, Juno flew many successful combat missions throughout the Outer Rim; bringing the admiration of her peers and commanding officers. Through quick promotions, she eventually gained control of Black Squadron. After proving her loyalty during the Battle of Callos, Darth Vader prompted her to pilot the Rogue Shadow, a secret ship used to transport Vader's apprentice. During the pair's journey, Eclipse's conscience would play a role in the fate of the galaxy.

I'll tell you the end of The Force Unleashed right now, sight unseen: the apprentice shags Juno (because there's only so long you can be cooped up onboard a small transport ship with a hot blonde you outrank before you either score, or get kicked out the airlock), Vader finds out, gets all jealous because he turned to the dark side especially to keep his bit of tail alive, only to have his gentleman's area burned off in a volcano. Harsh words and fighting ensue, and the apprentice decides that being a Sith isn't that great after all. Really, if they'd just let Jedi go on dates like ordinary people, the whole Galactic Civil War wouldn't have happened.

There are three figures in this set: Juno, Darth Vader (sporting significant battle damage), and Vader's apprentice (likewise beat up). All three are decent efforts, but when you compare them to Minimates what a threesome! and the like - which is the natural comparison to make - they suffer from, well, being Lego. It's been over 30 years since the Lego figure made its debut, and it hasn't changed much - we still have the blocky, children's-art-style body proportions, the rounded cylinder heads, the ultra-simplified faces of generally no more than two dots for eyes and a line for the mouth, and the basic articulation. Don't get me wrong, Lego figures are fine for Lego, but when you bring in a licensed property like Star Wars, and then look at the treatment superheroes are getting from Minimates, these little guys (and girl) start to look a bit too elementary.

Still, taking them for what they are, they're good work. Vader is heavily beat up from fighting someone (presumably his promiscuous apprentice), with his chestplate torn open and wires hanging out, and the black sheaths on his left arm and leg ripped back to reveal grey skin - at least, He puts his pants on one leg at a time I assume it's meant to be skin, though that raises a continuity question since both legs were supposed to have been severed at the knee. Maybe some of the grey is skin and some is metal. His accessory package includes the obligatory lightsaber, as well as a collar piece, meant to represent his helmet being shattered. The collar is a decent replica of the techy costume elements seen in Empire and Jedi; comparing it to the Lego helmet it's obviously too big, but since the figure doesn't wear both at once that's a minor issue. The head beneath the helmet, which is revealed when the collar is in place, shows Vader's scarred face, along with the remains of his facemask clinging to his jaw and right cheek. The cloak other Lego Vaders sported is missing - presumably the first thing to go when he started getting walloped in the fight - but overall this is an interesting variant.

I have no name The apprentice gets similar treatment, with a painted costume representing a black outfit with grey shoulder and chest armour over it. His left arm is bare, and he's taken a wound across his stomach, where the outfit it torn, and blood-flecked bandages are visible beneath. His face is the most generic of the three, simply a frowning version of the standard Lego face, and his hair is very much like the standard pieces most Lego figures sport, black and relatively smooth. His only accessory is a lightsaber, identical to Vader's.

Juno sports a more elaborate face, with detailed and coloured eyes and lips - her expression is probably meant to be cool and aloof, but the translation to Lego d'you know Juno? style renders it more pouty and petulant, sadly. She's wearing a black Imperial uniform, with the usual rank bar on her chest, and contour lines that try to suggest a female body shape, much like Minimates sport - unfortunately the trapezoidal body shape of the Lego figure makes this effort even more an uphill battle than on Minimates, and you really don't get a sense that there's much of a physique being represented here. Her hair is a ponytail with a few strands hanging down to frame her face - there are a couple of corresponding strands of hair painted onto her head, but the match between them and the sculpted hair is lackluster to say the least, and all in all her hair looks more like a mop than a 'do. For an accessory, she has an Imperial Navy cap, black to match her uniform.

Oh, she does have one other accessory: a spaceship.

The Rogue Shadow

The Rogue Shadow is a kind of TIE Fighter meets Millennium Falcon - there's the fighter's central cockpit module and sails, while the Falcon contributes the lop-sided hull this is what it's supposed to look like with its twin "prongs" at the fore, and the radial engine module at the rear (which looks really good, incidentally). Since everyone was always claiming the Falcon (and by extension, that class of ship) looked like a piece of junk, it's probably not supposed to suggest an actual lineage to the Shadow, but to us out here in the Falcon-is-cool real world, the reminiscent design elements subtly suggest the same kind of do-anything go-anywhere transport with a whole bunch of tricks up its sleeve. It's not the prettiest or meanest-looking vessel the Imperial Navy's come up with, but it's got a fair bit of visual appeal, and the general look of the thing clearly suggests that anyone trying to take it on had better know what they're doing.

steps The Shadow comes packaged in eight bags of bits, each of which (aside from a few finishing touches) corresponds to a piece of the ship, such that it assembles in a modular fashion. bags Step one is the cockpit, then you get the engine block, the forward starboard hull, the aft port hull, the forward port hull, the fine details (landing gear, visible weapons, and hull armour), the starboard twin sail, and finally the larger port sail. Maybe it's just my memory playing tricks, but I don't recall Lego sets being so compartmentalised in the old days - I always used to open all the bags, tip everything out into one big pile, and set to work, but perhaps I was just being impatient. Still, it's a fun build, with some clever construction, inventive use of generic parts rather than over-reliance on kit-specific pieces, and a nifty bits of engineering hidden away inside the hull to get all the ship's action features working.

Once the Shadow is all in one piece, she's only got room for one it's got plenty of tricks to keep the children (or those of us who just refuse to grow up) amused. The cockpit roof swings up and back, allowing Juno to be placed inside at the controls (which sadly consist of one joystick - I know there's not a lot of room in there, but a couple of readout panels would have been nice), from where she looks out through the big TIE-Fighter-esque window. There's a space behind her which could accommodate the Apprentice, but only when it's open - the roof's joint slides into it when it's closed, so regardless of being a transport, the Shadow is strictly a single-hander starship.

The most obvious doohickey on the ship is the geared rotation of the sails and engine - spin it! in landing configuration the sails point up and the 90° arc of the engine swings up and over the starboard-side hull, both of which are just to keep them from hitting the ground. There's an x-beam running the width of the ship between the two sail assemblies, geared into the engine module such that when you turn the sails forward, the engine rotates backwards - it's a cute continuation of the Star Wars theme of bits of ships like the X-Wings and lambda-class shuttles and so on folding up to land. When landed the ship has four feet that fold out of its underside - they're not geared or anything, but are constructed in such a way that once you pull them out they'll automatically settle into their proper position when some weight is put on them.

The rest of the Shadow's bag of tricks torpedo is kept hidden beneath various hull panels. On the starboard side, the whole forward dorsal hull lifts up to reveal a spring-loaded torpedo launcher, operated by a little lever on the side of the ship. Pull the lever back and the launcher rises out of its bay, opening up the hull as it goes, and when it reaches its maximum height the catch presses against an internal strut, firing the torpedo. A cute feature is that the landing gear blocks the final extension when it's deployed, so the launcher won't fire when the ship is on the ground - I don't know whether the designers intended that or not, but it makes sense that you wouldn't want to go firing heavy ordnance when you're sitting in a spaceport.

fire! On the port side, the rear dorsal hull swings open to reveal two missiles, which are also raised into firing position by a lever lower down on the side of the hull. The missiles sit snugly in their launcher, but aren't attached in any way, or spring-loaded, so "firing" them consists of pulling them out and making whoosh noises (don't pretend you wouldn't do it). The way the launcher module works, with the panel swinging back and the missiles coming up to vertical, is rather reminiscent of a submarine's launch tubes, so possibly these ones are meant to be fired while on the ground at anything buzzing overhead. The forward starboard hull opens up to reveal a weapons cache containing two Imperial blasters.

It's more Technic-lite gizmo than playset, but it's not as if this is the Millennium Falcon where you could have fun posing figures in the rec room playing holographic chess, or put Artoo and Threepio in the engine bay trying to fix the hyperdrive. None of that. The ship itself is the character this time, and as such, it's a fun model to play around with. The only thing that's missing is a stand - while the Shadow has its landing mode, there's no question that it looks better in flight mode, with its sails swivelled into ass-kicking position, and given the volume of pieces that come in the box, a couple of extra ones to form a flying stand wouldn't have been over the top. Even with that omission, it's a good set, enjoyable to build and muck about with, and rewarding enough to justify its price point.


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