REVIEW: STAR WARS CLONE WARS PRE VIZSLA
What is it about the Mandalorians? It's a little too simplistic to call them the "boogeymen" of the Star Wars Universe. And it may be tantamount to copyright infringement to call them the "Klingons" of the Star Wars Universe, although that's probably a more apt description than some Star Trek and Star Wars fans who think that the two concepts should never meet would like to admit.
The Mandalorians, first introduced to us through a certain Bounty Hunter by the name of Boba Fett, and certainly expanded upon since then through novels, comic books, Jango Fett, the Clone Army of the Republic, and other sources, have become one of the most highly defined cultures within the Star Wars Universe. They have their own language, one of the most distinct cultures apart from the multi-planetary mish-mash that we're otherwise used to, and they certainly have no shortage of equally specific fans, who have been known to refer to themselves as "Fandalorians".
It's no great surprise that the Mandalorians have turned up in the abundantly popular Clone Wars animated series, and I don't just mean in the form of the Jango Fett based Clone Army. The Mandalorians themselves have been putting in appearances, and one faction in particular, known as Death Watch, has proven to be rather troublesome. And they've been prevalent enough to warrant entry into the action figure line -- assuming you can find them.
I don't know if the warrior skills of Mandalorians includes anything akin to ninjas, but it might as well given how elusive the action figures have proven to be. There are, to date, four known Mandalorian specific items -- a single-carded Mandalorian Warrior, a Mandalorian Warrior four-figure Battle Pack, a Mandalorian by the name of Pre Vizsla, and a Mandalorian Speeder with a distinctly-colored Mandalorian Warrior driver.
If you want more extensive details on Mandalorian Warriors in general than I plan to provide in this review, please see my review of the Mandalorian Warriors Battle Pack -- or consult the Web Site "Wookieepedia", which I highly recommend.
So, who is Pre Vizsla? Basically, he was the leader of the Mandalorian Death Watch faction during the Clone Wars. Seeking to overthrow Duchess Satine Kryze and her pacifistic New Mandalorian government, in order to restore Mandalore to its warrior ways, Vizsla secretly allied himself with Count Dooku and the Separatists. While governing Mandalore's moon, Concordia, and maintaining loyalty to Kryze in public, Vizsla led the Death Watch in secret from several Concordian mining camp bases.
The Death Watch's terrorist attacks on Mandalore came to a head when Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi arrived on Concordia with Kryze to follow leads on the Death Watch. When Kenobi discovered the Death Watch's secret base, Vizsla confronted them with several warriors and revealed himself as the renegades' leader. After engaging Kenobi in a short duel, Vizsla forced him and Kryze to flee Concordia.
Vizsla conspired with Mandalorian Senator Tal Merrik to capture Kryze during her journey to Coruscant, where she intended to plead her case directly to the Galactic Senate, but Merrik was defeated before he could complete his assignment. Amassing an army of Death Watch troopers on Concordia in preparation to take over Mandalore, Vizsla was forced to wait until his and Dooku's plot to turn Mandalore against the Republic was completed. Vizsla dispatched a Death Watch assassin to Coruscant to kill Kryze, as her death would remove the opposition to the Senate's upcoming vote to have Republic troops occupy Mandalore - an occupation which would allow the Death Watch to gain the support of the Mandalore populace and "liberate" them from the Republic.
However, the assassin failed to murder Kryze, and the plot itself fell through, with the Senate voting against occupying Mandalore. With this turn of events, Vizsla was forced to postpone his attack on Mandalore, as his forces would be unable to hold the planet without the support of the populace.
Pre Vizsla was a defender of the Mandalorians' historic past as warriors that had once fought against the Jedi Order itself. Recognizing the Mandalorians' previous culture and what he believed that they should be, Vizsla possessed a strong desire to return Mandalore and its people to that reality be leading the Death Watch in its campaign to take control of the Mandalorians' homeworld. In the wake of the death of Mand'alor Jango Fett during the Battle of Geonosis, Vizsla considered himself to be carrying on the traditions of the Mand'alor, embodying the Mandalorian ideal of the: one ruler". He also intended to reignite the ancient feud between the Jedi and the Mandalorians, seeking to make his people enemies of the Jedi once more. Vizsla opposed Duchess Satine Kriyze and her New Mandalorian government, viewing them as weak-willed cowards that tarnished the very name Mandalorian.
Vizsla was willing to ally himself with Count Dooku and the Separatists if it meant that the Death Watch could emerge victorious over Kryze's government and that his vision of the resurgence of the Mandalorians' generations-old warrior culture over the New Mandalorians' pacifistic goals was realized. Vizsla also schemed with the corrupt Senator Tal Merrik to capture Kryze. However, Vizsla, as a loyal governor of Concordia and one of the officials leading the search for the Death Watch, was able to guard his true allegiances from Kryze for some time. His apparent support of her was to such a degree that he came to be considered one of her trusted allies.
Vizsla was an able fighter, possessing enough combat skills to hold out against Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi for a short amount of time in a lightsaber duel. Vizsla was also a skilled diplomat, and, as the Death Watch's leader, his orders were carried out promptly and without question.
So, how's the figure? Well, how does "incredibly awesome" sound? Okay, I'll admit, I like the Mandalorians, too, although I wouldn't regard myself as a "Fandalorian". I've got a fair number of Mandalorians around here, including figures of Boba, Jango, as well as some of those exclusive Mandalorians that EntertainmentEarth offered a few years back.
The Mandalorian Warriors Battle Pack was a little more uniform in appearance. The Mandalorians in this set all dressed alike, mostly in blue with metallic gray, almost pewter colored armor, with a certain amount of trim. As for Pre Vizsla -- well, just ask Darth Vader. You wear black in the Star Wars universe, people are going to know that you mean business, and it's likely to be unpleasant business.
Like the Mandalorian Warriors, Pre Vizsla is dressed in Mandalorian armor. Heck, it's the same set of molds. There's that chestplate that we've come to associate with Mandalorians ever since we first saw it on Boba Fett, that sort of tri-sectioned armor with the two upper sides and the abdomen, and that little six-sided piece in the center. This is in black, as is the rest of the armor. The "undersuit" is also either shown to be black or such a dark gray that it's virtually indistinguishable.
This doesn't mean, however, that Pre Vizsla is colorless. Far from it. The belt around his waist is brown, with a black center. There is blue trim on the very top of his chestplate, and his shoulder armor is also blue. The left shoulder armor has a red and white emblem in it. The little six-sided piece of armor in the center of the chestplate has been lined in blue, and there are blue stripes running down his legs, rather narrow, segmented lines that makes me wonder if Pre Vizsla is a fan of the "Tron" movies. There is also a small red emblem on his right lower arm.
Of course, Pre Vizsla has the standard Mandalorian helmet, which I've always likened somewhat to being a cross between a dome and a trapezoid. It is curved on the top, and flared at the base. It has curved indentations at the cheeks, and a T-shaped visor in the front. Obviously, this helmet design is also best known for being worn by Boba Fett, as well as Jango Fett, and somewhat inspired the original Clone Trooper helmets, but it's also a common, traditional Mandalorian design.
Pre Vizsla's helmet is black, with dark gray trim around the visor, blue trim on the back and the indentations on the front, and a white emblem on the forehead. Additionally, the helmet is removable! Now here is one aspect where I particularly want to commend the Clone Wars line over much of its movie-based counterpart, sometimes known as the Legacy Collection. Although the Clone Wars line is obviously based on the somewhat exaggerated look of the characters as they appear in the animated series, one thing that the toys have gotten right is the ability to provide a figure with a removable helmet that is of an appropriate size relative to similar figures whose helmets are not removable.
What I mean by that is this -- you can take a row of Legacy Collection Clone Troopers, and it's sometimes not that hard to tell which ones have removable helmets, as opposed to those for whom the helmet IS the head, because the removable helmets are noticeably larger. This isn't always the case, but it often is. In comparison, the Clone Wars Clone Troopers that have removable helmets are often indistinguishable from those that do not, because the removable helmets are the same size as the "helmet-heads". To what degree this has to do with the overall bodily proportions of the characters in the animated series, and to what degree it has to do with Hasbro wanting to adjust the sizes so they matched, I really don't know, but I applaud it regardless.
Now, Pre Vizsla has a removable helmet. In fact he's packed on his card with his helmet off. But, the helmet is no larger in size than those of the Mandalorian Warriors from the Battle Pack, whose helmets are not removable. I call that a nice bit of consistency in design, and it's sincerely appreciated.
As for Pre Vizsla's face -- it can be a little difficult to analyze because of the animated style of the show, especially, oddly enough, for someone who appears human. He appears to be a rather sharp-featured man, with angular cheeks and a somewhat long and narrow nose. He has rather piercing eyes. His hair is dark blonde, cut so short in the back that his hairline ends just above his ears. There's a little tuft of hair on the top of his head that looks like a cowlick.
Pre Vizsla is also wearing a fabric cape! Normally, I am wary of cloth accessories on figures this small, but a cape can be made to work, and it works very nicely here. It is a relatively short cape, with a black fabric strap in the front to hold it in place. It is a pale steel blue, with dark gray stripes on the back, and an emblem which is representative of the Death Watch. The cape, for such a small fabric piece, is very nicely made, even partially hemmed, and certainly neatly imprinted with the stripes and emblem. It's lightweight enough so that it looks good either worn directly behind him, or off one arm, sort of like how Boba Fett wore his minimal cape, although Pre Vizsla's cape is larger than Boba's was. And in better shape.
Let's talk articulation. I think this is another one of the aspects that has made these Mandalorians so popular. They're readily among the most articulated action figures in the Clone Wars line, possibly even exceeding the most poseable Clone Troopers. And since Pre Vizsla uses the same body molds, he's just as articulated as his followers. Pre Vizsla is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows (including a swivel), wrists, mid torso, legs (including outward motion), knees, including a swivel, and ankles, including a swivel. These Mandalorians are a case study of how an action figure can be super-poseable without resorting to extreme and often detrimental to the appearance of the figure notions like double-jointed elbows and knees. Pre Vizsla and his Mandalorians are superbly articulated, and they look good in the bargain.
Now, I don't usually discuss accessories extensively, but in Pre Vizsla's case, it's worth it, especially with regard to one particularly cool and interesting item. Yes, Pre Vizsla comes with a jet pack, a largely black one with some nicely done blue and red trim -- and one would hope he gets his cape out of the way before using it -- that clips to his back, and he has a couple of blaster pistols, as well as a battle stand and the card and die necessary to allow Pre Vizsla to be part of the "Galactic Battle Game" presently being promoted in all Star Wars action figure products. All fine and well. But what I want to talk about is that long black menacing sword called a Darksaber!
Now, there's an interesting name, just in concept. So, what is a Darksaber?
Actually, the question should be -- what is the Darksaber. According once again to Wookieepedia, the Darksaber was an ancient lightsaber that was stolen by the Mandalorians during a collapse in power of the Galactic Republic, being passed down through Clan Vizsla -- which goes a long way to explain how Pre Vizsla got the thing.
Unique among other lightsabers, the Darksaber possessed a flat, black-colored blade that came to a sharp point much like a traditional vibrosword, rather than the rounded beam of more standard lightsabers. The Darksaber also gave off a higher pitched hum when active than more widespread lightsabers were known to make by the time of the Clone Wars.
The Darksaber had many unique features that distinguished it from almost all other known lightsabers. Along with the aforementioned, the hilt was slightly longer than the standard saber length. Oddly, while the core of the blade was black, itself an oddity, the outed edges glowed white. This ran opposite to all other known lightsabers, where the central core was white and the edges glowed in the more recognizable color. Additionally, the edges of the blade were not flush with the emitting end of the hilt, but were slightly off center. Interestingly, unlike most sabers, when the Darksaber struck another lightsaber, it did not produce a clashing sound. Instead the blade made a "twang" or whistling sound when struck against another energy blade. It seemed that many aspects of the Darksaber were diametrically opposed to regular lightsabers.
Interestingly enough, not even the Wookieepedia entry had a specific origin for how the Darksaber came to be, only that it was sequestered in the Jedi Temple until stolen by the Mandalorians.
Now, you're not going to come up with something as cool as a "Darksaber", after thirty-plus years of various-colored lightsabers, of Samuel L. Jackson demanding the first and only purple lightsaber for his character, Mace Windu, of waving around blue, yellow, and green lightsabers, and red ones for Sith -- and NOT include it with the action figure of the character who wields it in the show. Not unless you want to be deluged with angry outbursts by fans all screaming, "Where's the Darksaber!?"
Okay, so it's a piece of plastic about 1-7/8" in length. It's also very nicely made. The hilt is very different from a typical lightsaber, with a little added flair at the top, and a seeming complete lack of the techno-gizmos that most lightsabers seem to have on their hilts. The blade is squarish in appearance, rather than round, and does indeed end in a point. While an oddity among lightsabers, the overall design is surprisingly similar to a traditional bladed sword.
So, what's my final word here? This is an abundantly cool figure. He's well made, all the details are neatly painted, which is always nice to see -- the worst thing I can say about the paint is a little bit of the blue on the helmet could use a little touch up, but at least it's not sloppily done -- and certainly the figure is well articulated. And Pre Vizsla also represents the leader of a faction, the Mandalorians, who continue to prove their popularity in the toy stores as much as they prove to be a threat not to be underestimated in the Star Wars Universe.
There's a decent amount of very cool Mandalorian merchandise to be had at this time in the Clone Wars line, and it only makes sense to have their leader among your collection. Now, kindly point that Darksaber somewhere else, will you please?
The STAR WARS CLONE WARS figure of PRE VIZSLA definitely has my highest recommendation!