Review: Star Wars Black Series 6″ Darth Vader

Ah, Star Wars Black Series. A line with a great concept, a ton of potential, and a great opening couple of waves… that proceeded to immediately decline from there. After a bewildering drop in quality and hilariously awful wave distribution leading to severe shelfwarming (nowadays you’d think the line consists solely of Obi-Wan), the once-promising toyline has become a bit of a joke. Despite this, the waves do keep coming, and after months of searching I’ve finally found the line’s first Darth Vader. Is this the 6″ Sith Lord we’ve all been waiting for?

IMG_0822Appearance

Credit where it’s due, Vader translates well into the 6″ scale. He’s appropriately tall (about half a head above Boba), looks striking, and feels like a hefty chunk of a toy. In terms of bang for your buck, Vader hits it up there with fellow-big guy Chewbacca. Considering the same box and pricepoint for those two also holds a 2″ Yoda, you can start to understand some of the line’s complaints. Regardless, at a glance, Lord Vader looks pretty great, but us collectors never simply glance at our toys.

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Like Boba Fett, Darth Vader’s costume design went through some changes between films. Like Boba Fett, I’m going to have to dip into dangerous nerd territory and analyze it. The most obvious indicator is the layout of his chest panel thing, which identifies it as the ESB/ROTJ model. This is supported by his torso cloth running under his shoulder/collar armor, rather than over it as seen in ANH. However, the toy’s eye lenses are painted in a reddish hue, which was only seen in ANH. As we’ll see, however, the entire helmet area is one wrought with poor design.

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Red lenses aside, the helmet just looks wrong. At first, it can be very difficult to place exactly what is wrong with it. All of the necessary details are present, it certainly looks like Vader’s iconic helmet, but it’s just off. From what I can tell, the main offender is that the “face” of his helmet is just too big. The helmet itself is mostly fine, matching up to the larger size of the ESB/ROTJ costume. It’s the eyes and triangular grille that are just too big. The eyes should be a bit smaller, a bit more even, and obviously black. The grille needs to be smaller and more pronounced at the bottom. The shape of the cheekbones is also off: they should be lower and less pronounced. Is it the worst Vader headsculpt ever? Probably not, but you can’t deny that it looks pretty bad. 

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While a lot of the sculpting choices are pretty inexplicable, the overall “bigness” of the helmet can be chalked up to the removable feature: like most modern Vaders, the helmet comes in two parts and can be removed to replicate his unmasking in ROTJ. While it clearly has resulted in sacrificing the accuracy of his helmet, I can’t deny that it works really well… almost. Most removable-helmet-Vaders suffer from a loose helmet part, while the mask part stays on well. Here it’s the opposite: the helmet and mask parts hold together very well to each other, but they really don’t like to stay on his head. Oftentimes when posing Vader’s head his helmet will come ajar, which only makes it look worse.

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Beneath the helmet, we are treated to the visage of Sebastian Shaw’s Anakin Skywalker in all his grey, scarred glory. This sculpt is excellent, and the paintwork makes it look incredible. Rather than just painting his head a pale grey, Vader’s skin is brushed with a blend of grey with hints of light reddish-brown to give his skin a pale yet organic appearance. It’s really quite fantastic. The only thing missing is additional paintwork on his scars, which I suspect were cut so as to not be too gory. Is this marvelous face sculpt worth the downfalls of the helmet? I honestly can’t decide… nor can I understand why the sculpt of the helmet even had to be compromised for the gimmick. Oh, well.

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With that notable blemish out of the way, the rest of Vader is very well-done, but there is one more major area to focus on: the cape. I have a love-hate relationship with soft goods capes, and on the 3.75″ figures they tend to always look really bad. This cape, however, is thick, heavy, and hangs very well rather than poofing up like your average cape. It’s almost perfect, except for where it connects to Vader’s collar. Instead of cleanly starting along the top of Vader’s shoulders, it’s connected on either side of his chestplate not at the edge of the fabric, but just below it. This results in the top of the cape popping up along his back and looking just a bit too awkward. It’s hidden a bit by his helmet, but it’s still fairly noticeable. Also, what’s up with the bling? From all I could see, the chain connecting Vader’s cape is small and black in the films, to the point where you can barely see it. Why even bother?

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The rest of Vader looks good. You could complain about the flare of his “skirt” or the cloth strips on his torso, but at least on mine it’s not too much of an issue. The skirt issues can generally be remedied by careful leg posing, and if the torso cloth bugs you, it’s apparently not too difficult to trim. I will admit that his crotch plate can be a little distractingly big, but that’s actually accurate to the suit. Lastly, his legs look really good.

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Articulation

The Black Series has been pretty good so far when it comes to articulation, but how does a bigger guy like Vader fare? Actually pretty well. His head is on a surprisingly expressive ball joint that allows him to look up and down as well as left and right, and even a bit of tilt. His arms are the weakest area with ball-hinged shoulders limited by his armor and a single-jointed elbow hindered by the sculpt. My only real issue with this is that he can’t assume his signature “hands on belt” pose, and that bugs me. His wrists swivel and also move up and down, though his right hand could’ve used a different cut to the joint to let him point his lightsaber. 

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Vader’s torso joint seems to be ball-jointed with an ab crunch in addition to a basic swivel, which I did not expect and am happy to see. His legs are ball-jointed with a very good range, and he has a (very stiff) thigh swivel. His knees are double-jointed, which seems to be a standard for the line (though why this cannot extend to the elbows, I do not know). Lastly, his ankles are ball-hinged and fully tiltable. Aside from his arms, Vader has just about all the articulation I could ask for. Solid B-, Anakin.

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Accessories

Other than his helmet, the Dark Lord’s sole accessory is his lightsaber. The blade can be removed, but since the hilt has nowhere to store on his belt, it’s kind of a pointless feature. I would’ve liked to see some weapon storage like the rest of the saber-wielding figures in the line, but I can live without it. This Vader works best in action poses, anyway.

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I will take this section to discuss the sculpt of his hands. His right hand is in a standard lightsaber-holding grip and works perfectly well. His left hand, however, is in a strange, calmly-open position. The only particular scene where Vader makes this gesture is when he’s offering Luke the position of co-conquerer of the galaxy in ESB, and I guess it’s accurate enough, but… why? Why choose that over something more iconic, like a Force choke pose, or even a slightly more open sculpt for a two-handed saber wielding (not that the articulation could accommodate it, but still)? If Han Solo can come with completely pointless optional hands, I don’t see why Hasbro couldn’t have spared Vader at least one optional left hand. A replacement stump for his right hand would’ve been a nice touch as well, but now I’m just nitpicking.

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Overall

Darth Vader was released in the same wave as the ROTJ Luke Skywalker I reviewed a while back, and it’s clear that the two toys are meant to compliment each other. Coincidentally enough, both figures are pretty great with the exception of their respective heads. Vader definitely suffers the most from his awkward-looking helmet, which, despite the feature itself working well and boasting a fantastic Anakin head underneath, unfortunately really brings the figure down. The oddness of the cape’s connection doesn’t help, either, and the limited arm articulation and weird left hand only add to the negatives.

IMG_0836All that being said, this really isn’t a bad figure. It’s almost the perfect Darth Vader toy. It’s got great paintwork, a mostly great sculpt, and mostly great articulation. A lot of fans are really down on this figure, and while it’s certainly nowhere near Figuarts quality, I honestly think it’s worth picking up. That being said, I’m really hoping Hasbro will take a second go at a 6″ Vader, perhaps without the removable helmet for better accuracy. With the state of the Black Series line as it is, though, I fear the chances of such a release are slim.

"You were right about me. Tell your sister... you were right..."

“You were right about me. Tell your sister… you were right…”

Where to Buy

  • Amazon
  • BBTS
  • As far as retail goes, try Walgreen’s.
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