Thursday 22 August 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series Clone Commander Obi-Wan Kenobi

Release Date: August 2019
RRP: $20/£20

The 2008 Star Wars: The Clone Wars series has become both a landmark and definitive piece of Star Wars fiction, but for many fans exposure to the franchise's great conflict came five years earlier with Samurai Jack creator Genndy Tartakovsky's Star Wars: Clone Wars animated series. Despite only running for 25 episodes spanning around three hours in total runtime, the Emmy award winning series included many notable moments – including the proper debuts of both Asajj Ventress and General Grievous. Though it has mostly been wiped from official Star Wars canon, it remains a firm favourite amongst fans and its legacy continues with Hasbro's Black Series Clone Commander Obi-Wan Kenobi. This figure depicts Obi-Wan in the outfit he wore in the show's first season, and is a Walgreens exclusive release in the US.

Clone Commander Obi-Wan Kenobi comes packaged in the usual "red series" box currently used for all Black Series releases since 2015. However as an exclusive release, the box does not have a designated release number on the spine like you would find with all mainline releases. Other than that though it's completely identical in design, featuring some newly produced artwork of Obi-Wan in his Clone armour on the front and back as well as a short bio which tells the history of the great Jedi. Inside the figure and accessories are housed on a single moulded plastic tray.

True to his cartoon appearance, the Clone Commander Obi-Wan Kenobi figure is simply an Obi-Wan head placed onto a standard clone trooper body modded to feature Jedi robes pinned down by two lapels at the front of the armour and further held in place by the belt. As such as far as Hasbro are concerned this figure is a pretty simple recycling of parts, as evidenced by the fact it still has a blaster holding right hand rather than a more appropriate one. It's a shame Hasbro skipped out on fixing this, because otherwise the figure looks fantastic. Much like the previous Clone Wars and Rebels releases in this line this figure translates the cartoon look into a live action aesthetic, and the new photo-realistic head sculpt brilliantly captures Ewan McGregor's likeness. The body has a gloss white finish that evokes the plastic-like look of the onscreen armour, as well sitting nicely with the dark brown robes. Said robes are made of a lightweight fabric that's both easy to position and doesn’t impede too much when displaying or balancing the figure. However whatever brown dye they've used doesn't get on get with that bright white armour, resulting brown print marks being left in places where the body remains in constant contact with them (particularly the back of the legs). Thankfully it's generally in areas not in view, but it's still a pretty shoddy bit of quality control overall. It's a shame, apart from those two flaws it's such a simple but effect reuse of parts. So much so that it's amazing that it took Hasbro to jump on it so long, but given the significant advances in head sculpting the line has had recently this was undoubtedly the best time for it to finally see production.

Overall Obi-Wan has 25 points of articulation which includes swivel hinges for the neck, shoulders and ankles, ball jointed hips, waist, bicep, wrist and thigh swivels, and finally double hinged elbows and knees. That's actually above average for a Black Series figure, and the Clone Trooper body is generally considered to be among the best the line has to offer. But while Obi-Wan has all this on offer areas like the shoulders and hips are overly sticky and thus difficult to work with. With the shoulders it's largely due to those ovular shoulder pads and thankfully those get easier to work with as the joints loosen, but the hips aren't so co-operative. Thigh swivels and some wonderfully fluid ankles offset this somewhat, but it's still far from perfect.

The main accessory included with this release is of course Obi-Wan's lightsaber, which features a removable blade and can be pegged directly onto the figure's belt when not in use. The lightsaber hilt is really nicely sculpted despite the lack of silver paint and additional peg breaking the onscreen accuracy somewhat. However the bigger problem isn't the accessory itself, but more that the figure is almost incapable of holding it properly. Since the reused right hand was never intended to hold anything other than a blaster, its grip on the thin hilt is very loose and the lightsaber tends to slip out in anything other than the most basic poses. Remoulding the hand with a hairdryer/hot water could fix the problem a bit, but it won't get rid of the separate trigger finger or change the fact that the buyer shouldn't have to do this in the first place. Of course the other answer is to simply use the correctly moulded left hand to hold it, but that isn't accurate either. So what is a very basic accessory is spoiled a bit by Hasbro's inexplicable laziness – even if the rest of the body is recycled, getting something as simple as the hand right should have obvious.

Obi-Wan also comes packaged with a Star Wars Black Series branded display base, which is a rarity for Black Series figures in general but seems to be a common inclusion for the more recent exclusive releases. The base is a triangular piece of translucent plastic featuring the franchise/toy line logo in raised lettering, with a raised arch which the figure's foot can comfortably slot under. It isn't the most attractive of connections, but it does its job whilst allowing the base to be as minimal as possible. Given some of the balancing issues Obi-Wan has in action poses, its inclusion certainly doesn't go unappreciated. Of course the base isn't designed solely for Obi-Wan either, so it's perfect for any other figures you have in your Star Wars collection that struggle to stand unsupported. While it won't fit smaller-footed figures as tightly, it'll still get the job done.

The Tartakovsky Clone Wars cartoon holds a special place in Star Wars history and for many people (myself included) the Clone Wars is the most iconic point in Obi-Wan's Jedi career. But while the Black Series Clone Commander Obi-Wan Kenobi may be the Obi-Wan figure I always wanted, it sadly isn't the figure I hoped it would be. The overall look of the figure and photo real head sculpt are incredible, but through lazy parts recycling and very questionable QC it falls just short of potential. This particular release may be a bit of a mixed bag, but hopefully its popularity and success will eventually lead to other figures from the more obscure corners of the Star Wars universe.

1 comment:

GlennPalpatine22 said...

This is soooo cool! Obi-Wan is my favorite character from the whole series and I enjoyed watching Clone Wars years ago. The new black series releases makes me so happy because it hits all the right spots and I don't need to think twice if I want to buy them lol. Ben Kenobi is such a big character in the series, but did you know that he wasn't among the first toys to be in production? I learned more about the history of Star Wars Toys from The Toy Report and I feel like a toy expert now because of all the new things I learned. Go give them a look if you're interested :D