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Darth Vader (Emperor's Wrath)

SWVI: Return of the Jedi
by yo go re

Lifehack: if the guy you're planning to overthrow is a living battery, make sure your hat is insulated.

Unable to watch his son Luke Skywalker die at the hands of the Emperor, Darth Vader received a lethal blast of Force lightning as he hurled his master to his doom.

There was already a Black Series Darth Vader, but since he came out after Greedo and before Constable Zuvio, he never showed up anywhere - it was a case of "order online, or continue to hunt the stores fruitlessly." So let's have a big round of applause for Walgreens and their newest Star Wars exclusive!

The majority of this figure is identical to the normal release. He's wearing his Return of the Jedi costume, which had a few minor differences from the previous movies, according to people who are much more obsessive than we. The important thing is he's got his quilted leather suit and his padded girdle, and the armor over his chest and shoulders. One of those minor differences we mentioned is the cape-hook on the center of the chest armor - RotJ had one, ESB didn't - and it's right here on the toy, as it should be. Nice! Like your middle school backpack, the armor itself weighed 27 pounds, which is why Vader could barely lift his arms while wearing it. He even had surgically replaced vertebrae to help him bear the weight!

The main thing that sets this exclusive apart from the standard version is the head. Rather than a two-piece removable helmet that revealed his scarred-up old man face, this one represents the moment when the Emperor's lightning struck him, illuminating the remains of his human body within the life-support suit. The movie displayed that in blue, while the toy does it as purple, but the intention is clear.

The way they did it is pretty impressive, too. None of the helmet is removable, but if you pry the dome off, you'll see that it's glued to a large white peg that sticks up through the top of the mask. Inside, we can see a skull with blue electricity streaking across it. There are also small holes in the back of the mask, and inside the neck's balljoint socket. So it seems like what they did is mold a skull, paint the lightning on it, then (using two posts to hold it in place) mold the trans purple mask around it. That is clever work, and it looks terrific when it's done!

Below the neck, the paint isn't perfect. The buttons on his chest control panel are right color, but the paint doesn't cover very well. Also, the highlights on his armor should be a darker gunmetal grey, not this bright silver, and the shoulders should be entirely black. The chain holding his cape closed should be black as well, but it's real metal on this toy, so that might not have been possible.

Do you like softgoods on action figures? Well then you're in luck! Do you hate softgoods? In that case, we have some bad news for you. Vader's cape and robe are both made from cloth. The cape is stitched to the figure at the shoulders, because that's the only way to have it hang in the right place. The material chosen is the right thickness, and there are stays in the lower corners to both keep their shape and to add a little weight and make them hang nicely. In the first movie, Vader wore his inner robe over his shoulder armor, but in the sequels, it was beneath - the story goes that at the 1976 World Science Fiction Convention, where 20th Century Fox was doing a big promotional push for the first movie, they assembled the costume wrong on the mannequin; it was decided that the character looked meaner with the armor showing, so they switched it. Still, for this toy, it could have been done the way Darth Maul's was.

Anakin was never happy with his prosthetics: his synthetic skin itched constantly, his mechanical limbs were sub-par, his auditory sensors fluctuated between making everything sound like it was underwater or screeching with feedback, and his respirator was so loud that he couldn't sleep. His chest panel beeped and lit up for seemingly no reason than to remind him that he couldn't live without it, and an opponent once shut down the entire suit by simply reaching out and pushing a single button on the front. The weight of the armor and the crappy construction of his legs meant he could only move slowly, and the interior of suit itself was constantly snagging and getting caught in his joints. He suspected that Palpatine had specifically chosen inferior materials to keep him hobbled, which was probably true.

The figure moves at the neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, torso, hips, thighs, knees and ankles. That's mostly the same as the mass market Darth Vader, but on this figure, the right wrist is just a swivel, with no hinge. There is, however, a scene-specific reason for that: the hand pulls out at the wrist, leaving behind a mechanical stump! Perfect! Less perfect are the hip balljoints, which are so loose my figure can barely stand. I need to get some superglue in there!

In addition to the removable hand, Darth Vader includes his lightsaber. The red blade is the flat, straight style without the sculpted flare at the base, sadly, but the hilt is accurate, and the blade can be taken out if you don't want him swinging it around.

If the original Black Series Darth Vader had ever showed up at any store anywhere in all of Christendom, I'd have bought it. And if I had it, I'd have been much less eager to get this exclusive (which isn't exactly plentiful, itself). But the new head really is wonderful, and the fact that they remembered or cared enough to make a severed hand for him is just gravy. Hopefully the hips aren't this bad on all the samples, and blue plastic would have been more accurate than purple, but he's still good. Shame we couldn't get both the standard and electrified heads at once, but that may have been too much awesome for one box to contain.

-- 03/13/16

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