Tuesday 23 April 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series General Grievous

Release Date: March 2019
RRP: £30/$30 

Releasing a toy line at a single price point is a great idea when it comes to affordability, but it does beg the question of what you do when certainly characters don't quite fit into that fairly rigid mould. The Star Wars universe features characters of all shapes and sizes, many of whom wouldn't be done justice at the standard price point of the 6 inch Black Series line. But rather than go all Marvel Legends on collectors and introduce a build-a-figure to each wave, Hasbro have instead introduced a new "deluxe" range of Black Series figures – ones that can have the size, materials and price point they need to do them properly. Kicking off this new range is a character that's been on many collectors' want lists for some time now – the Separatist droid general and feared Jedi hunter General Grievous. Despite Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith being his sole movie appearance, Grievous' popularity also stems from his appearances in the two Clone Wars animated series as well as various other bits of expanded tie-in media.

It may be a new range of Black Series figures but that doesn't mean anything has changed when it comes to packaging design, as General Grievous retains that striking black and red colour combination the line has been using for a good few years now. Of course the larger box size should give away that there's something a little different about this release, but if that isn't enough General Grievous also has the unique designation of "D1" rather than falling in line with the rest of the line's numbering. All the other elements of the packaging are exactly the same though, such as the excellent character artwork and the bio printed in multiple languages on the back of the box. Inside the figure and its accessories are comfortably stored on a moulded plastic tray.

If there's one thing Hasbro should be given props for it's the fantastic likenesses and sculpts they've been churning out recently, especially given the asking price of these figures. Whilst General Grievous isn't a character that needed facial scanning or anything fancy like that but they've still done an excellent job on the overall sculpt. It's unreasonable to think that a $30 figure is going to hit every detail of the CGI model, but unless you're especially critical of what Grievous should look like this hits all the right notes. The bone colour of the "white" sections looks especially good, and contrasts nicely with the gunmetal grey of Grevious' skeletal frame. Paint apps are fairly minimum here, but the few areas they have been used (browns to scuff up the plates and silver scratches on the grey) all work nicely to emulate the kind of materials the character is made of. The best paint apps of all though are the eyes and surrounding skin, which brilliantly convey the charred organic matter that sits under all that droid augmentation. At a push it would have been nice for the figure to have a bit more colour in the chest area to highlight Grievous remaining organs (even if the chest compartment isn't openable on this figure), but it's hardly a glaring omission. 

Capes are a thing you can rarely please everyone with, but as far as soft goods go Grievous' isn't too bad. The wraparound part is cumbersome and woefully inaccurate to the film, but the colours and stitching on it are top notch. The cape also has a nice thickness to it without weighing the figure down too much, which is a pretty difficult balance to strike on a character as thin as Grievous. But of course the best detail of all here are the four pockets stitched into the inside, perfect for housing the General's lightsaber collection.

It's when you begin to play about with the articulation that the figure begins to show some issues, and in some cases it's difficult to tell whether Hasbro are at a fault or it's just a quirk of Grievous' rather unique design. On paper it all sounds excellent, with Grievous sporting ball joints at the head, neck, torso, shoulders and hips along with swivel hinge shoulders (in addition to the aforementioned ball joints that connect the arms to the torso) and feet, bicep and forearm swivels, single hinge elbows and then double hinged knees. With this you can capture Grievous' range of movement rather nicely, from his hunched over walk to those rare moments where he stands tall to look extra intimidating. The problems arise when you look at the arms closely, or more specifically when you have them pegged together into Grievous' default two-armed look. In addition to the arms being difficult to peg together to begin with, the fact they have their own individual joints means you need to line up the elbows up perfectly for them to work in tandem. It takes a fair bit of playing around with (especially since you're also battling with getting the arms properly pegged together at the same time) and the end result is still going to be more limited than it should, but it's better than just having the elbows bent at an awkward angle. Besides, the biggest problem here isn't the arms – it's the feet. Between his lightweight frame and complete lack of ankle rockers, General Grievous has a serious balancing problem. It's all very good being able to get all manner of poses out of the rest of the joints, but it's not much good when the tiniest motion will make him fall flat on his face. The arm problem is easier to overlook because that probably is just an unfortunate side effect of the design (though the pegging element could definitely be better), but the ankles are something Hasbro could have easily fixed before the figure made it into production.

In addition to the cape, Grievous also comes packaged with four lightsabers (two with blue blades and two with green) and a blaster pistol. Each of the lightsabers has its own unique hilt and the blades are removable, which means that when not in use the hilts can be stored in the cape's four pockets just as they are in the film. The blaster can also fit in one of the pockets should you so wish, but the fit isn't quite as comfortable. It’s a nice little array of accessories, and the inclusion of the four lightsabers is a definitely a step toward justifying Grievous as a "deluxe" Black Series release. Despite some semblance of a trigger-moulded hand it's pretty difficult to get it to fit in comfortably without forcing it open – something you don't necessarily want to do on a figure with parts this thin. However it's clear that these weapons weren't intended to be wielded by a two-handed General Grievous, so it's time to look at the other tricks this figure has up its sleeve.

With Grevious' arms split as they initially are in-package, the figure is now free to wield all four lightsabers – or maybe three sabers and a blaster is the good General is feeling extra devious in battle. Now that the arms are separated each one can make proper use of its own individual joints, adding considerably more poseability and flexibility than it could achieve beforehand. That said, there are still issues here that could have easily been avoided. The problems holding the blaster have already been mentioned, but it's also worth noting that two of the lightsaber hilts are thinner than the others. This results in the hands having much poorer grip on them, which can be a little frustrating when you're trying to find the perfect pose and the hands can't grip the hilts at the centre. Secondly the lack of wrist swivels really hurts the figure. It means that the lightsabers can only be posed at specific angles, and you can't properly recreate specific attacks like the way he spins the upper blades. It's true that the arms are incredibly thin and probably couldn't take being loaded with too much articulation, but for a figure with a higher price point it seems like a poor omission when nearly every other figure in the line can manage them.

Black Series General Grievous is a figure that's been long overdue, and although there are a few notable flaws here Hasbro have done a great job of adding the fearsome droid general to the line's ever-growing ranks. Given Grievous skeletal frame and spindly limbs I do question a little just how much here warrants the high price point other than size, but nonetheless as far as an affordable, six-inch General Grievous figure goes this will definitely take some beating. While Bandai's S.H. Figuarts version will surely outclass it should it ever get released, given that it's likely to be double the price that should be expected. The Black Series figure is never going to replace the desire for a high-quality General Grievous figure, but until that day comes it makes a pretty great stand in.

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