REVIEW: STAR WARS CLONE WARS ARC TROOPERS BATTLE PACK
When it comes to the Star Wars action figure lines, I'm what you might call an "army builder". I like the Clone Troopers and Stormtroopers best of all. Come up with a new version of a Clone Trooper or a Stormtrooper, and there's a good chance I'll be interested in it. Oh, and yes, I like the R2-style droids. I have a bunch of those little fireplugs, and it's still a frustration to me that I was unable to complete more than a couple of the ones from the "Droid Factory" offerings.
I initially didn't intend to collect the Clone Wars line based on the animated series. I realized it would be full of Clones, and frankly, the line didn't look terribly compatible with the movie-based figures. It was certainly in style with the CGI series, but I honestly wished that was a little more realistic-looking. I still do. Certainly LucasFilm is capable of this. But, what's done is done. Ultimately, setting aside the head designs, which are clearly rather cartoonish, the bodies of the characters, and as such the figures, were distinctly leaner, and the figures slightly taller. I felt that I really didn't want to start up what was truly a second Star Wars line.
What changed my mind? Two factors. Firstly, it seemed as though there weren't going to be a lot more troopers in the movie-based line. And secondly, one of the last troopers from the movie-based line I did pick up... It was Commander Cody, a well-regarded Clone Commander whose earlier figure had been rather limited in articulation, and pre-posed. Unfortunately, the new figure had its own problems, as it was not only "battle scarred" with its paint work, but there was armor damage molded into the figure!
The figures are as well made as any Star Wars figure, most of them are just as well articulated, well-designed, and there's certainly plenty of Clone Troopers to choose from. I barely have time to try to do any backtracking on some that I missed early on, because there's new ones coming out.
And, apparently, I'm not the only one who likes the Clones, because there's a four-pack out there that according to many collector reports, is rather elusive. And indeed, I've only seen this particular "Battle Pack" once, among some fairly extensive displays in any number of retailers, and I snagged it the second I did.
It MAY be an exclusive to Walmart, although it's not marked as such, so I don't want to say that definitively. That's where I found it, however, and it's where most people are finding it, apparently. But there's no little blue sticker on it with the Walmart logo proclaiming it as an exclusive, so I'm not going to go that far.
The Battle Pack is called ARC TROOPERS, and it's well named, because that's what it contains -- four different ARC Troopers. The set includes Captain Rex, an ARC Trooper Commander, and two ARC Troopers. The text on the package doesn't really cite a specific mission. It gives a brief explanation of what ARC Troopers are, relative to standard Clone Troopers, and I'll get more in-depth on that anyway, and presents the set as saying, "During one mission, ARC Troopers team up with Captain Rex's battalion to attack an army of battle droids that have taken control of a strategic city."
So let's start off with the one named figure in this set -- CAPTAIN REX. Technically, he's the only figure in this set that's a little superfluous, as ironic as that seems. Captain Rex is quite probably the most prominent Clone Trooper in the entire Clone Wars series. His personal entry on the Star Wars-based "Wiki"-type Web Site, "Wookieepedia", is easily the longest. Sideshow, presently licensed to make high-level 12" Star Wars figures, has even done a 12" figure of Captain Rex, the first character from the animated series, and they gave him an entirely realistic head, not an animated-style one. Nice crossover in my opinion.
However, Captain Rex has been available in figure form before. He was a mail-order figure that was offered just before the Clone Wars series (TV and figures) got rolling, and he's also available on an individual card, technically in two forms -- his traditional uniform and a cold-weather armor version. So Captain Rex is not that hard to come by. I suspect someone thought it might help sell the set to include a prominent character in it.
Some time back, I reviewed the mail-order Captain Rex figure. But the character has garnered a lot of history since then. While relating his entire history would be impossible, or at least very lengthy, I'm at least going to try to hit some of the high points.
Captain Rex's official designation is CC-7567. He was in command of Torrent Company, a unit of the famed 501st Legion in the Grand Army of the Republic. He served under Jedi General Anakin Skywalker, and was a free-thinking, tough, and aggressive trooper. His noteworthy individuality aside, Rex followed his orders without question like the rest of his soldiers. He was also good friends with Commander Cody.
Rex would go to many different planets throughout the galaxy during the Clone Wars. He assisted Generals Skywalker and Kenobi during the Battle of Christophsis, when he worked with Commander Cody to root out a traitor, and later led Torrent Company during Confederacy General Whorm Loathsom's multiple counterattacks. Rex also participated in the Battle of Teth, where he was one of the few Clone survivors before reinforcements arrived.
Rex participated in the Battle of Bothawui, and later assisted Skywalker and his Padawan, Ahsoka Tano, during a mission to destroy a Confederacy listening post, and one was of the few clone troopers, along with Sergeant Denal, to survive the mission. After rescuing General Aayla Secura from defeat by the Confederacy with Skywalker and Tano, the Jedi and Clones, including Red and Commander Bly, crash-landed on remote Marisun, and Rex stayed with an injured Skywalker while the others found help. After Confederacy General Lok Durd arrived on the planet to test a new weapon, Rex and Bly helped to defeat the Confederacy and save the inhabitants of the planet. Rex would later be an asset during a short war on Orto Plutonia, and would help halt the release of the deadly Blue Shadow virus. Rex also helped Skywalker and Tano during the Battle of Ryloth and retrieving a stolen Jedi Holocron.
He's also been involved in activities on Gwori, Mon Gazza, the Rishi Moon, Quell, Felucia, Devaron, Geonosis, Saleucami, Malastare, and was even around for the Zillo Beast rampage.
As to his origins, Rex is, of course, one of the many clones of bounty hunter Jango Fett, bred on Kamino by the Galactic Republic to fight in their Clone Army. Rex is, of course, an ARC Trooper, which means, most prominently, that he has a greater level of individuality and independent thought than most Clone Troopers.
Rex was perhaps a little more independent than most. Rex believed that experience outranked everything. An independent thinker, he wasn't afraid to voice his opinion to higher ranking officers, but still obeyed orders from his superiors. He was also very tactful, adept at diffusing tense or embarrassing situations. Because of his close relationship with General Skywalker, Rex learned to never underestimate the abilities of the Jedi, nor doubt their resolve. Trained in a variety of fighting skills, he was a skilled soldier, unafraid to place himself in danger if required for the line of duty.
Rex thought very highly of General Skywalker, who considered Rex a friend in turn, and also seemed friends with Ahsoka Tano, sometimes calling her by her first name. He was able to deduce that Skywalker was in love with Padme Amidala due to the clones' heightened sensitivity to minute personal details, but he had no idea that the two were secretly married.
Rex was also an avid bolo-ball fan, partial to the Sullustan team, Bylluran Athletic. At one point, he had his hair dyed blue and cut into stripes in support of the team making the finals. Funny, but one doesn't really think of the Clones as having hobbies. Nice to know that they do, really.
For more extensive, and I do mean extensive, details into Rex's various activities throughout the Clone Wars, I recommend his entry on Wookieepedia. Bring a snack.
So, how's the figure? Really pretty impressive. Most of the Clone figures in the Clone Wars line use one of several standard bodies. Fortunately, Captain Rex, and all of the figures in this set, use the same basic body, which is the best of the lot.
Captain Rex is outfitted with standard Clone Trooper armor, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows (including a swivel), wrists, mid-torso, legs, knees, and ankles. There's another set of body molds out there that isn't quite as well articulated, that I really wish they'd lose.
Captain Rex also has the ARC Trooper additions of a shoulder pauldron, and a kama, which is the name of the skirt-like tunic that ARC Troopers and select others wear around their waist, draped from the belt.
Captain Rex has a removable helmet. One cool thing about the Clone Wars figures over their movie-based counterparts. Those that have removable helmets are not terribly distinguishable from those that do not. In the movie-based line, those with removable helmets frequently had helmets that were distinctly larger than those who did not have helmets. This not only set them apart visually, but also looked a little disproportionate, almost to a silly degree. The Clone Wars line has managed to avoid this, thankfully.
Captain Rex, as one would expect, looks a lot like an animated version of Jango Fett. However, it's become clear over the course of the Clone Wars that even the Clones get a little sick of seeing the same faces all the time in the barracks, especially when that face is also their own. While they arguably can't do that much about their facial structure, they can alter their hair. Some have grown facial hair, others have shaved their heads or altered their hairstyles, or even dyed their hair a different color.
Rex falls into this last category. He has very short, close-cropped hair, which he has bleached a very pale blonde, almost white, but not quite. It's a little peculiar-looking given his otherwise somewhat dark complexion, but at least it sets him apart. Sorry to those of you who were hoping for his blue stripes. Maybe they need to do a "Team Supporter Captain Rex" with that particular hairstyle and color, and maybe a pennant or a jersey or something (and, having said that, I'll soon find out it's in the works...)
The other thing that sets one Clone apart from another is uniform trim. As he is part of the 501st Legion, Captain Rex's uniform trim is dark blue. This consists of a design on the forehead of his helmet, which is distinctive to Captain Rex and looks a little like a pair of stylized eyes as much as anything, blue around the visor of his helmet, stripes down his arms, and blue on his elbow and knee pads.
I think in an attempt to make this Captain Rex look like he's been through battles, and as such his armor has gotten scraped around a bit and some of the blue trim has come off, the stripes down his arms and the blue on his elbows and knees has been painted unevenly. Interestingly, I don't think it was painted by hand, which has been a frequent complaint of mine with regard to these figures, mostly applicable to the black "undersuit" detailing, which on Rex I'm quite convinced was done through proper paint stencils. But I also think the uneven stripes were painted this way, as well. Unfortunately, the end result of wanting to make Rex look slightly battle-worn just makes him look like he got some sloppy trim. The blue trim on his pauldron is also done similarly.
His kama is very neatly designed and surprisingly neatly painted. It has two holsters, with two very small pistols in them. These seem inclined to stay put, but I recommend keeping an eye on them. Rex's other weapon, described as a "sharpshooter blaster", is a large rifle which he comes with in the box. Distinctly larger than most Clone Trooper firearms, it's not something Rex can put in a holster, but you wouldn't want to be on the wrong end of it.
Overall, this is a cool Captain Rex figure, even though he is available elsewhere. Given his prominence in the series, I can pretty well understand his inclusion in this set. Now, let's consider the other figures:
ARC COMMANDER - I think at this point we need a little history into the ARC Troopers in general. "ARC" stands for "Advanced Recon Clone", and they were an elite variant of clone troopers in the Grand Army of the Republic. Although less numerous than the other clones, they were among the most skilled soldiers in the galaxy.
During the early stages of the Clone Army's development, Jango Fett and his Mandalorian military advisors advocated the creation of clones capable of handling covert missions too delicate for the standard units. To achieve the desired results, the Kaminoans did not apply the standard behavior correction and enhanced the prime clone's genetic sample to increase physical prowess.
The first attempt at genetic alterations failed, but having learned their lesson, the Kaminoans succeeded in the second attempt, generating the first 100 ARC Troopers, designated the Alpha class.
After completing standard flash training and accelerated growth, these clones were placed under the direct tutelage of Jango Fett. Under Fett's strict discipline they learned to use their fierce independence, innate creativity, and physical superiority in combination with their training in advanced weapons and vehicles to become virtual one-man armies. After completing their training, the ARC Troopers were locked in stasis on Kamino until they were needed.
Two months after the Battle of Geonosis, a Confederacy assault on Kamino prompted their early activation. As droid detachments closed in on Tipoca City, Prime Minister Lama Su activated the Advanced Recon Commandos and authorized their deployment to hot spots across Kamino in a last-ditch effort to same the planet's cloning facilities. The ARCs worked with a force of Jedi to repel the droid forces.
Following the First Battle of Kamino, the ARCs were intograted into the Grand Army of the Republic. As the ARCs took their place in the larger world, they developed distinct personalities due to their unaltered nature; some gave themselves names, others formed relationships outside the Grand Army. It is possible that they trained ordinary Clone Troopers in ARC techniques and commanded them in squads.
As their reputation spread among the Grand Army and throughout the galaxy, the ARCs proved time and again as to why they were regarded as the best of the best in the Grand Army. However, because of their training as independent soldiers, they were more prone to questioning orders. In one unforgettable incident on Ord Cestus, ARC trooper Alpha 98 disobeyed am order from his Jedi commander and sacrificed his life to destroy a local group of despots.
The Advanced Recon Commando program did not end with the death of Jango Fett. Following his escape from Rattatak, ARC Trooper Alpha, one of the earliest ARCs, returned to Kamino to train the second generation Clone Trooper Commanders as Fett had trained him. These commanders, like Bacara and Cody, adopted the individualized practices of the ARCs and brought a new sense of creativity to the Grand Army. Later in the war, distinguished infantry clone troopers could be promoted to ARC Troopers.
After the Clone Wars, all surviving ARCs were offered either retirement or the option to train their successors, the stormtroopers, passing on their combat experience. Some accepted, but some even defected to the Alliance, while others went rogue, following in Jango Fett's footsteps by becoming bounty hunters.
So, how's this ARC Commander figure. Really very cool. The figure uses the same armor as most Clone Troopers, but of course has the additional ARC-related accessories of a pauldron and a kama. The pauldron is mostly black with a bit of red trim on one side, and has two narrow pouches hanging from the front.
This ARC Commander comes with a pistol in his holster, and a fairly large rifle, both unlike any I have yet seen in the Clone Wars line. Both are somewhat bulkier in appearance, with a thicker, rounder barrel. It almost looks like some sort of silencer, which doesn't really make a lot of sense for an energy-firing weapon (and for all I know, wouldn't even work). The Clone Commander's kama has holsters, but it's really only good for the pistol, but as with Captain Rex's, I would be careful with them, even though their larger size would make them less inclined to being lost, the rifle less likely so than the pistol, admittedly.
The trim color on the Clone Commander's armor is red, and like Captain Rex's, has been painted in a sort of "starting to wear off" uneven pattern, which unfortunately just makes it look like it wasn't painted very neatly in the first place. The Clone Commander has red trim around his visor, a vertical stripe down the front of his helmet and up over the fin, some on the indented sections on the back of the helmet, and stripes down both arms. There is also a red stripe on the kama, very neatly painted. The Clone Commander's belt is tan.
There's an additional device attached to the Clone Commander's left wrist. It looks like an enlarged version of the little panel of buttons that appear on most Clone Trooper armor. The device is painted red, with yellow buttons. As to its specific purpose, I don't know offhand. It's not mentioned on the package. Perhaps it's a communications unit with greater range? I would suspect that whatever it's designed for, it's designed to be more powerful than the standard version. It's a cool little accessory, and like the blasters, unlike anything I've seen before with a Clone Trooper.
The figure's helmet is not removable. Not a big deal. The black undersuit details are very neatly painted. For some reason, the figure has a slightly uneven stance. I'm not sure what caused this, but it's not overly serious. Overall, he's a cool figure.
Finally, let's consider the two CLONE TROOPERS. As they are different from each other, I am going to designate them by their armor trim colors. One has very dark blue trim, the other has dark red trim. Therefore, I will refer to them as Clone Trooper Blue, and Clone Trooper Red, since they don't have individual names listed on their package.
The first thing you notice about them both is that they have the Episode III style Clone Trooper helmets! This is the FIRST TIME that Clone Wars Clone Troopers have come with this style helmet. Previously, all Clone Troopers -- unless they have very distinctive helmets like the ARF Troopers -- have used the Episode II style helmet, with the "T" shaped visor that is reminiscent of Jango and Boba Fett's Mandalorian helmet. The Episode III-style helmet is a bit closer to the Stormtrooper design, in that while the "T" shape still exists, the eyeslits have been widened and look more individual.
Personally, although the Clone Wars line has enabled me to get used to the Episode II style helmets, I've always preferred the Episode III-style. They just seem to have a little more personality, somehow.
Now, some might worry, "Does this mean that the Clone Wars series is coming to an end?" Well, no, I don't think so. The series is certainly popular. There's a joke going around that the Clone Wars series might turn into the M*A*S*H of the Star Wars universe. This was, of course, the popular TV series in the 70's and 80's that took place during the Korean War -- and ran for a lot longer than the actual war did.
According to what I have determined, at this point in the Clone Wars series (as of this writing, anyway), ONLY the ARC Troopers are being given the new Episode III-style helmets, and apparently only when it's convenient to supply them. Case in point being this set. Rex and the Clone Commander have the Episode II-style helmets. The two Troopers have the Episode III-style helmets.
And, ultimately, we really don't know at what point during the Clone Wars the helmet changeover became widespread. We know what helmets they wore in Episode II, and in Episode III. There's no reason to assume that the helmet changeover happened particularly close to the events of Episode III. It might have been not all that long after the events of Episode II.
The helmets are impressive. Not a lot of modification was needed to translate these helmets to the animated style. It's another reason I like the Clone Troopers. The helmets on these two figures are not removable. Again, not a major loss.
Both Clone Troopers have shoulder pauldrons, which are distinctly larger than either Rex's or the Clone Commanders. They are flared out to both sides, and somewhat further than the others. Every panel on Clone Trooper Blue's pauldron is painted dark blue, while only half of Clone Trooper Red's pauldron has red panels. The rest are black. However, Clone Trooper Red has an added feature of some silver armor hanging down from his pauldron, offering additional protection to his chest. I suppose it's possible that it's meant to be attached to his chest, and this was the most feasible means of translating it onto the action figure. Both pauldrons have several narrow pouches attached to them.
Both Clone Troopers are wearing kamas, about the same length as Rex's or the Commander's, but slightly different in design, with crossed straps leading to pouches in greater evidence. Clone Trooper Blue has a blue stripe on each side of his kama, while Clone Trooper Red has two broad curved stripes on each side of his kama.
Both Clone Troopers have backpacks that snap onto their backs. The packs are identical, black in color, with silver details, and appear to contain several components. I'm not really sure what their functional purpose is. The backpacks stay put reasonably well, but can pop off fairly readily. They're a little too big to be as easily lost as a small pistol, but if you want them to stay put permanently, a drop or two of glue in the peg hole should take care of that.
Trim-wise, Clone Trooper Blue seems to fare a little better. He has a vertical blue stripe over the top of his head, and some detailing on the sides of his helmet, leading to the front. Clone Trooper Red has no such trim. Clone Trooper Blue has four blue squares on the left side of his chest, stripes down his lower arms, and two narrow blue stripes encircling his wrists. He also has blue knee pads, and two blue markings on the top of each foot.
It's at this point that Clone Trooper Red gets really interesting. His lower arms, lower legs, and feet are silver! His lower arms have dark red stripes on them, and there are sculpted squares on his lower legs, that have been painted gold. Combine this with the silver chest plate attached to the pauldron, and one gets the impression that Clone Trooper Red might have some special training requiring a variant to his armor. These are clearly new parts, as the date on the bottom of one of his feet is 2010. Most Clone Troopers use parts that were developed in 2008.
Both Clone Troopers come with pistols. Their kamas lack holsters, and the pistols are pretty small. I recommend a Ziploc bag if you don't intend for them to hold their weapons at all times.
Paintwork is generally neat, although the stripes have the same "slightly worn off" look as the other two figures, and some of the black undersuit trim may have been hand painted, but neatly enough. Detail on the helmets is superbly done, and I have to say that I am excited to see the introduction of the Episode III-style helmets into the animated Clone Wars line, and I hope we'll be seeing more of it, although I would hope it would be mostly new figures like these two ARC Troopers, and not just putting new helmets on characters already established. That will probably happen somewhat, though.
It's also worth noting that the antennae on the sides of the helmets for both of these ARC Troopers is adjustable. Such is not the case with those with the Episode II-style helmets.
So what's my final word here? This is a cool set. Yes, we've seen Captain Rex before, but he's prominent enough to sort of get away with it. It's not like there aren't other previously seen characters in other Battle Packs. The other three figures are entirely distinctive to this set, very impressive, and I am especially pleased with the ARC Troopers and their Episode III-style helmets! My lone complaint about this set is that I wish the trim stripes had been painted more neatly, but that's something you sort of have to learn to live with in the Star Wars universe from time to time. Ultimately, any fan of Star Wars and the Clone Wars would be very pleased to add this set to their collection, and I can certainly understand its reported scarcity! If you find it -- get it!
The STAR WARS ARC TROOPERS BATTLE PACK definitely has my highest recommendation!