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Star-Lord & Ego

Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2
by yo go re

Roguish and unpredictable, Ego and Star-Lord share many of the same qualities as father and son. But when it comes to defending the galaxy as each sees fit, their approaches unquestionably differ.

We always complain when companies force us to double-dip on figures, so it's only fair that we also praise them when they don't.

There was a Star-Lord figure from the first movie, so much like Drax, there wasn't really much of a need for a new one (especially since Target had apparently been sitting on cases of the first movie's toys for three years). But, again like Drax, Series 1 did include a new Star-Lord. And just as that series was about to start hitting shelves, Entertainment Earth broke news about this two-pack, featuring an identical version of Star-Lord. So how, exactly, is this not another case of a company gouging us with a double-dip?

Because the Series 1 figure didn't come with a Build-A-Figure piece. Unlike Spider-Man, Spider-Man, or even Spider-Man, the figure this set is "duplicating" wasn't one you had to buy to finish a BAF. So thanks to Entertainment Earth announcing the set early enough, we knew not to bother with the Series 1 release.

The figure gets an entirely new sculpt, though it's not like Star-Lord's costume has been drastically redesigned between films: tall boots, space jeans, T-shirt, brown jacket. Done. He no longer wears jet boosters on his ankles, and he's traded in the long coat for a waist-length version, which definitely sets it apart nicely from the first movie's toy. Since it's a separate piece that fits over the existing torso, his neck and chest are too skinny to look right without the jacket on, so don't plan on finding him some extra arms to make a "casual" custom (even though the slogan on his shirt is fully painted on there).

The likeness is not perfect. It's amazingly superior to the 2014 figure - like, "some level of wizardry" superior - but the forehead is too big. Great face, great hair, great paint that actually allows you to tell his sideburns apart from his stubble... and then a forehead that's much bigger than it is on the real dude. Eh, you take what you can get.

We also get an alternate head, showing him with his mask on. It too is a new sculpt, because that's how things work. His other accessories include his quad blasters (the same sculpt as before, maybe?), but this time his hands are actually molded with the trigger fingers extended, making it easier for him to hold them. But he doesn't have to, because he also has tabs on his hips that the guns can plug onto. Neat! The set also has a new version of his Walkman, a black block with a divot molded on the back to help him hold it. No headphones though.

Now let's look at the important part of this set. Director James Gunn revealed very early on that the movies wouldn't be using the "J'son of Spartax" origin from the comics, and then he didn't even make it a secret that Peter Quill's space-daddy was going to be Ego, the Living Planet. Ego the Living Planet! Fricking come on, man! DC's barely figured out how to make the world's most famous and popular female comicbook character work, and Marvel's like "eh, the talking raccoon is so passé; meet the daftest idea Jack Kirby ever came up with. You're gonna love him." And because they're Marvel, it worked and they were right.

In the comics, Ego was what resulted when a planet's sun went supernova, merging a scientist with his native world. Which... isn't that the plot of the modern-day sections of the Assassin's Creed games? Anyway, from time to time he would create human-sized avatars to interact with the heroes who would come across him, and that's fundamentally what he did in the movie, too. Except instead of meeting and fighting superheroes, he met and plowed alien women. Like that episode of Futurama where the shape-shifter tried to trick Leela into marrying him. "A Bicyclops Built for Two."

Ego wears a pretty cool outfit. The best way to describe it is "regal adventurer": simple brown boots, dark pants with leather pads on the thighs, a beige jacket with leather epaulets and some sort of silver armor(?) on the outside of the shoulders and the lower ribs, matching bracers, a crazily ornate belt with a brown sash across the chest, and then a dark blue cape over the whole thing. He looks like his own person, not a copy of anyone else, but you also get the feeling he chose these clothes specifically to appeal to his son, like all "look at me, I'm a cool dude!" And it totally worked.

The Living Planet was payed by Kurt Russel, because if you were going to invent a personality to impress a girl in the '80s, you could do worse than Snake Plissken/Jack Burton/RJ MacReady/Dean Proffitt as a panty-dropper. Of course, this is the modern, beardy version of him, and can we just pause for a moment to appreciate how utterly seamless the "de-aging" that goes on in Marvel films is? First it was 1989 Hank Pym, then 1991 Tony Stark, and now 1980 Ego, and it's consistently good. Like, it passes all the way through the uncanny valley and comes out the other side. Take that, Peter Cushing!

We get two heads for Ego, but no, one of them is not a young Kurt Russel (or even Zardu Hasselfrau). In fact, they're barely different at all: one is happy and smiling, the other is angry. Props to the sculptor for making those visibly different using little more than the shapes of the cheeks and the angle of the eyebrows. To improve the likeness on their live-action toys, Hasbro has started "printing" the faces, like some Japanese toy companies have been doing for a while now. It takes the accuracy of the paint out of the hands of underpaid, overworked humans and puts it in the processors of a computerized system, making the accuracy and consistency take a huge rocket ride through the roof. It does leave the faces a little more glossy than the standard style of paint, but that's a tradeoff we're willing to make.

Ego has no accessories, but what could they have given him? A blue ball of energy? A tiny copy of his planet form? Okay, that would actually be pretty cool, because again: Marvel put Ego the Living Planet in a movie AND THEY MADE IT WORK WITHOUT BEING EMBARRASSED BY ANYTHING ABOUT IT!! He does have all the same articulation as Star-Lord, with a balljointed head (to facilitate easy swapping), hinged neck, swivel/hinge shoulders, double-hinged elbows, swivel/hinge wrists, balljointed torso (okay, Star-Lord has a hinged torso and a swivel waist, but you get the idea), balljointed hips, swivel thighs, double-hinged knees, and swivel/hinge ankles.

Personally, I'd have been fine getting Ego by himself, but you can understand why they didn't do that. Still, the fact that there was no reason you had to double-dip on this Star-Lord shows a level of care we don't usually get from big companies. Although Entertainment Earth was the first to announce this set, it's not an exclusive - like that Civil War three-pack, you can get it pretty much everywhere.

-- 09/18/17

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