Star Wars action figures haven't interested me in a long time, and part of that is because of Hasbro's concentration on making them collectibles first and toys second. But recently toy manufacturers have been bucking the collectible trend and offering kid-friendly action figures with less articulation and simplified paint apps at a reduced price. Hasbro is one such example: it will concentrate its collector-oriented Star Wars figures into the Black Series, while maintaining kid-friendly lines in the Mission Series and Saga Legends assortments. Frankly, I got into this hobby for toys not collectibles, so I love that we're getting kid-friendly Star Wars figures again. The first wave of Mission Series figures is all Prequel era stuff, so whatever, but there is a Darth Vader that I can pretend is from the Original Trilogy. Let's check him out!
This figure has one of the better Vader sculpts in my collection (which also includes vintage, POTF2 Removable Helmet, VOTC, 30th Ann. ANH, and Battle Damage, if you're keeping score). The helmet in particular is the best, by far. Usually the dome is too thin, or the sides flare out more than they should, but this helmet sculpt is spot-on. Also, the lack of articulation means that the sculpting of the arms and legs isn't broken up by awkward-looking joints.
This Vader doesn't have a soft goods underskirt, but the skirt is sculpted into the legs. It's not a problem because the sculpt is split down the middle so he can still move his legs and sit, very much like those vintage figures that had their robes sculpted into the figures and bifurcated, like Obi-Wan or Anakin. And you know what? It totally works.
What doesn't work is the soft goods cape. It's so crazy thin and cheap that you can actually see through it. It makes the figure look like a dollar store toy. I guess Hasbro thought the cape should be a half-circle like the other Vader capes, and they probably thinned it out to keep the costs down. But what they should have done instead is to make the cape thicker and shaped in a sixth-circle, like Mattel's Batman and Superman capes (see above). That way, the cape would look better but they could still keep the costs down.
I suppose we should talk about the articulation. Hyper-articulation enthusiasts aren't going to like this, but Vader only has 5 swivel joints at the neck, shoulders, and hips. That's enough for playtime, but it's not quite up to snuff with other kid-friendly lines like Green Lantern or Man of Steel. Vader should at least have a swivel waist. Still, he sits well in vehicles (like the ROTS Jedi Starfighter above). And it's nice not to have to worry about hyper-articulation causing the figure to be so loose straight from the package that it can barely stand, or so flimsy that the joints can easily break.
Vader comes with some prequel-era scanner droid. The Mission Series assortment is supposed to include two figures in each set, but this droid feels more like an accessory than a full figure. So, although the $10 price tag isn't too bad, the other sets are better deals because they include two legit action figures. Also, the scanner droid is prequel-era, which means it's going straight into storage. Swap out the droid for a Stormtrooper, and now we're talking.
Vader also comes with a lightsaber. It's about the same as the other lightsabers you've seen recently, so there's nothing too new or exciting here.
This is a great start for a new era of kid-friendly Star Wars action figures. Vader is not quite as good a toy as he could be: the cape is awful, the waist needs articulation, and the scanner droid just doesn't count as a second figure. But I dig the idea behind this line: cool sculpts with limited paint apps and articulation at an impulse-purchase price. I doubt I'll ever be as enthusiastic about Star Wars as I once was, but this Vader reminds me of a time when Star Wars action figures were all about toyness. Fun stuff! I can't wait for Han and Chewie in this style!